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Chanukah 5758 - '97

Outline Vol. 2, # 8

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Chodshei Hashanah Vol. 2 # 2


We know that the Chanukah candles remind us of the miracle of the Menorah in the Bais Hamikdash. However, there have been many miracles performed for the Jewish People. Why, specifically, do we have a reminder of the miracle of the Menorah? Of course, we have various holidays and reminders, but, for the most part, the miracles we commemorate with specific mitzvos represent complete salvation. (See Sheetos B'halachah, vol. 2).

For example, Purim reminds us of how the Jews were saved from destruction. A miracle occurred regarding the gallows, but we have no mitzvah to specifically remind us of the gallows.

Pesach reminds us of the complete freedom granted to the slaves. There were Asarah Makos (ten great plagues), but we don't have mitzvos to remind us of the ten; only the tenth and final one -- Makas Bechoros (death of the first-born, which symbolized the actual freedom).

Kedushas Levi explains that there was something unique regarding of the miracle of the Menorah. The Menorah in the Bais Hamikdash was in itself a mitzvah -- a commandment. This was not a `typical' miracle, but came about through observance of a commandment.

Regarding the Chanukah candles, one needn't add a fresh candle every day. According to the law in the Talmud, one candle would technically be sufficient each day. But -- the Talmud states -- there are degrees in the performance of the mitzvah: The Mitzvah itself, Mehadrin (preferable) and Mehadrin Min HaMehadrin (best). Why, specifically in regard to Chanukah, does the Talmud discuss these levels? (We don't find them elsewhere!) The Kedushas Levi says that this is again due to the unique nature of the miracle of the Menorah, where the miracle came about through observance of a commandment. (See Kedushas Levi, Kedushah Chamishis.)

The Pachad Yitzchak showed that the battles of the Chanukah story were not in defiance of idolatry, but in order to keep commandments. As we wrote last week, the Syrian-Greek invaders outlawed Chodesh (sanctification of the new moon), Shabbos, and Bris Milah. Ordinarily, a Jew doesn't endanger his life in order to fulfill commandments, but the time of Chanukah was a `shas hashmad' -- time of forced conversion -- where the law mandates that any commandment take precedence. (Pachad Yitzchak, Chanukah.)

Thus, we see how the dedication of the Chanukah story was in connection to mitzvos -- commandments.

Mishley (Proverbs 6:23):

Ki Ner Mitzvah, V'sorah Or -- "The Mitzvah is like a candle, the Torah is light." By maintaining the commandments, the Torah will continue to illuminate throughout the generations.

At Pesach, too, miracle came about through mitzvos. The Pesach lamb, to be eaten with matza and morror, was a command. It, too, represented self-sacrifice: The lamb was worshipped by the Egyptian rulers, and by taking the lambs publicly and placing the blood on the doorways, the Jews were at risk. However, here the Jews were defying idolatry. At Chanukah, the battle was for mitzvos in general...

Chanukah is one of the few celebrations that occur during Rosh Chodesh (new moon). One aspect of the symbolism of the moon is that it constantly fades and is renewed. "Chodesh" (moon, month) actually means renewal. Chanukah, the rededication of the Bais Hamikdash, is a time of renewal, a time of renewed attachment...

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '97 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.



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