bs"d
Candle Lighting Light Candles
7:56 PM this Friday, 27 July 2018
Shabbat Ends 9:02 PM
Parashat
  Saturday, July 21, 2018 - 9 Av 5778
 
Share |
The Secret of Chanukah
Most Jewish children know the story of Chanukah. [1]

The Syrian-Greeks conquered the Jews and fixed as their object the destruction of Judaism by seeking to force Jews to eliminate G-dliness from Torah. This destruction was epitomized by the defiling of the Temple.

Notwithstanding the efforts of the enemy, one cruse of pure olive oil with the stamp of the High Priest was found and used to relight the menorah. A miracle took place and the cruse, which normally burned for one day, lasted for eight days, the time required to make the pure oil necessary to keep the flame alive in the menorah.

We remember the miracle as the festival of Chanukah.

Curiously, as we will see, we do not remember it primarily as a festival to celebrate the winning of the war or the regaining of the Temple. We celebrate it to remember this miracle of the oil.

There are a few things to note before we learn about the one cruse of oil.

People should understand that the menorah was lit with perfect, special, pure super quality oil. But in Jewish law, [2] in such an emergency, there is no reason not to use a lower grade.

The menorah could still have been lit. Nevertheless, the Jews chose to make no compromise to use the perfect oil leaving the outcome to Hashem.

It is as well to understand how a menorah works.

Olive oil is poured into the seven cups. A wick made of fabric, preferably cotton, is then inserted. Interestingly, oil cannot burn on its own; no amount of heat is sufficient to ignite it.

The olive oil is drawn into the wick, which equally interestingly does not burn on its own. When the wick is engorged with oil, the oil burns, not the wick. Clearly however, the size of the wick is variable. Its size determines how much oil is consumed and so burned.

It follows that because a thick wick consumes oil more quickly than a thin wick, the time of burning can be varied accordingly.

It further follows that with the knowledge of having only one cruse of oil coupled with the knowledge that it takes eight days to make a new cruse of perfect oil, an option is to use a wick one-eighth of the thickness of a standard wick. The oil will then last eight times as long.

The menorah was large and so the wick was easily slivered into eight pieces in diameter.

Again, the choice was the standard wick and the rest was left to Hashem.

According to law, [3] the light from the Chanukah menorah is entirely different to any other light; all other candle light is a means to an end, whereas the Chanukah menorah is an end in itself.

This is because, unlike other light which may be for honor (as in, say, a synagogue) or the actual use of the light (for example, over Havdalah after Shabbos), it is forbidden to have use from the light of the Chanukah menorah. We are forbidden to gain benefit from the light as such.

Why then do Jews place their Chanukah menorah in the window? (The Chabad custom is to put it in a doorway, opposite the mezuzah.)

The light entails a symbol of publicity - can we say this is of no use?

Indeed, some people, intent on doing the mitzvah beautifully, will display large blazing lights for the world to see.

Nevertheless, that is not the purpose of the menorah. The proof is that in times of danger the menorah is lit privately - specifically so that it cannot be seen. This is evidence that the publication is not the sole purpose. There is no purpose other than simply the obligation to light.

When a Jew lights his menorah therefore, he is doing so with no motive as to utility.

He remembers a miracle which occurred when he performed the mitzvah without compromise, with a full and sincere heart abandoning the outcome to Hashem.

If a Jew testifies to this every time he lights, he has just re- examined a secret blueprint for Jewish life generally.

At a deeper level, the Rebbe points out that there are three aspects of Chanukah.

One is the decrees made against us by the Greeks, the second is the self-sacrifice of the Jews and the third is that there were two miracles; the war and the lights.
These three aspects together are one of the secrets of the essential connection between every Jew and G-d.

The connection is essential because all three things are completely above reason.

Firstly, the decrees:

Curiously, Greeks and Jews lived with each other harmoniously.

Jews, particularly those who were less observant, have blended intellectually and culturally with many societies in history.

There is a grudging tolerance and, even at certain times, fascination, one with the other. This was true in all places where Jews lived at the time.

Often the host nation was powerful; whether Greece, Rome, Spain, England, France or Central Europe, paradoxically Jews' acceptance by the host environment often occurred simultaneously with anti- Semitism.

Greece at the time was of course the hallmark of culture.

Within Greek society, as is true today, there were those Jews who were observant Jews, uncompromising in their Yiddishkeit, and there were those who lived trying to melt as completely as possible into cultural surroundings.

The decree of the Greeks did not forbid the learning of Torah; rather, the requirement was for the G-dliness to be removed from Torah. Torah was to be understood as having only a rational base.

Oil, the symbol of light and G-dliness, needed to be defiled.

It was the very insistence on the purity of the oil which corresponds to the insistence of the purity of Torah to be maintained in its pristine state.

Secondly, the self-sacrifice:

The fighting of a persuasive cultural environment which seduces a person into accepting it, was highlighted by the self-sacrifice that the Jews had at that time.

Their self-sacrifice was their refusal to compromise and obey the decrees choosing instead a dependence on Hashem outside logic.

This was particularly so because the Jewish non-logical connection with G-d was the very furnace of the fury of the Greeks.

Finally, the third aspect were the miracles.

Miracles are higher than, and outside of, reason.

The miracles showed the special connection between the Jews and their G-d.

This supra logical connection between Jews and their G-d at a physical level is embodied in the lights.

Israel could have used less pure oil and they could have used smaller wicks. But, for life to be perfect for a Jew, the method is to do the mitzvos perfectly and then leave it to Hashem. This blind faith in G-d is its own conduit for bringing down the blessings.

The miracle that happened expresses the relationship which transcends limitation. The limitation of that one cruse of oil and a standard size wick. This is why, when we celebrate Chanukah, the Sages made the miracle of the light the main focus of our celebration, not the winning of the war.

The whole point of celebrating Chanukah is the celebration of a Jew's supra natural relationship with G-d.

If we do Hashem's Will, learn Torah and do mitzvos, apart from the by- product of living a purposeful happy life, it is possible to achieve everything.

Footnotes:

1. See Shabbos 21b. 
2. See Mikroei Kodesh on Chanukah for discussion on this problem. 
3. For the following explanation see Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 3, p. 814ff.

   
 

About us | Donate | Contact us | The Rebbe | News | Parsha | Magazine | Holidays
Questions & Answers | Audio

A Project of Beth Israel of Westport/Norwalk CT
40 King Street, Norwalk, CT 06851
Tel: 203.866.0534 Fax: 203.831.8969
Email: info@bethisraelct.org

Powered by ChabadNJ.org © 2010 All rights reserved.