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