We all know that even the transgressors of Israel are full of mitzvos like the seeds of a pomegranate.” Yet, these vast mitzvah-assets don’t seem to produce many dividends that we can see. The reason is that mitzvos uncoupled from penetrating understanding are incapable of pulling down real Divine chochmah. In a word, that is the function of Chanukah – to bring a person closer to Hashem through Torah. This is consistent with the principle that a we move through the calendar and arrive at the anniversary of some event, the special nature of that event is reexperienced. Thus, on Pesach we are able to escape from our restraints, just as we did in Egypt. On Shavuos, we receive the Torah anew.
On Chanukah, we are able to move closer to Hashem through the Torah, just as was the case in the days of the Chashmona’im. There was very little to work with back then. The Hellenizers had defiled all the available oil, meaning that they had degraded all the branches of wisdom. All that remained was a small amount of Torah – not enough bring sustained illumination. Mattisyahu’s avodah, however, was unlike that of others. It was based on deep comprehension, and thus capable of pulling down illumination from the eighth rung – that of binah.
The lights we kindle stand above three tefachim (to place them above pure earthiness), but below ten. While the Shechinah typically does not descend to within ten tefachim of the ground, Chanukah is different. In order that no neshamah should be lost, Hashem provides an opportunity for the Shechinah to reach everyone.
While Shabbos also provides a chance for everyone to approach Hashem, many cannot access the loftiness of the kedushah of Shabbos. Those who cannot relate to Shabbos find an entry portal in Chanukah. Thus, the oils and wicks that cannot be used on Shabbos are nonetheless appropriate on Chanukah. The wicks are people; the oils are Divine chochmah that fill the wicks, and allow them to shine His light on the world through their avodah. On Chanukah, Hashem Himself descends, as it were, to the human realm and fills the wicks. Before the times of Mattisyahu, this was unnecessary. Divine chochmah was accessible without any special assistance. The paucity of Torah at the time of the first Chanukah necessitated that a new approach open up, and it remained for all time.
Hashem performs multitudes of miracles at all times – sometimes openly so, and sometimes in a more hidden manner. The Torah that was available to those at the time of the Chanukah story was processed by people who had not climbed high on the ladder of understanding. They could only hope for hidden miracles. Mattisyahu, however, acted on a higher plane of full and deep chochmah. As the kohen gadol, he performed the avodah with that higher order of sechel, and merited that open miracles should follow.
All of this provides background to the perpetual significance of the opening of our parshah. The word Paroh is related to the idea of exposing and revealing. The dreams come after two years/shensayim. That word is similar to sheinah/sleep. When a person is aroused from his slumber, he begins to approach Torah from a higher, fuller consciousness. He stands over the river of Torah, from which emerge seven strong, healthy cows. (Initially, he can offer nothing of significance, like an animal.) The seven are the midos that become revealed to him: Ahavah – to love Hashem; Yir’ah – to fear Him; Tifferes – to glorify Him; Netzach – to vanquish the yetzer hora; Hod – to praise G-d; Yesod – to become bound to all of the midos; Malchus – to give dominion to His kingship, and coronate Him over all of existence.
These gifts are soon challenged. Seven lean cows emerge, as the yetzer hora seeks to subvert his acquisition of the seven midos. Ahavah is directed at monetary gain and other pleasures. Yir’ah – to avoid punishment. Tifferes is shifted to self-glorification. Netzach becomes victory over one’s enemies. Hod changes to self-congratulation. He becomes bound up in all these perversions of the other midos, and seeks dominion for himself.
The sickly cows swallow up the healthy ones, as the mitzvos previously performed now add power to the kelipos in which they become encased. If he manages to do teshuvah, his aveiros become mitzvos, meaning that the mitzvos that he had done previously are released from the kelipos and can shine through on their own.
Thus we find the connection between Chanukah and our parshah, which shows us how to serve Hashem and return to Him. We are also instructed not to make use of the light of the Chanukah lamps, because we ought to serve Hashem purely, without any consideration of self-interest, not in this world, and not in the next.