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by Daneal Weiner
Every holiday has a connection to the month in which it falls and to the astrological sign under which it falls.
is the only holiday which crosses over the threshold of a new month. It seems to need to draw influence from two zodiac signs to make itself happen. Rav Moshe Wolfosn asks what is one of the messages behind Hashem setting up Chanukah that way?
The Rav’s answer begins briefly mentioning the dispute in the Gemorah regarding lighting the Chanukah candles. Beis Hillel says for the 8 days of Chanukah one candle should be added as we go. Beis Shammai says we should start with 8 candles on the first day and subtract one as the days pass.
A slight question arises regarding these two opinions. There is a principle that we go up in sanctity, not down. The going up is allowed but not obligated. Going down in sanctity is actually prohibited! So why does Beis Hillel say to add each day? It would be sufficient to light 8 candles every day. And how can Beis Shammai say to subtract each day because it is forbidden to do so? The Sfas Emes answers this question saying that it was recognized by our Sages that there had to be a distinction from day to the next. So 8 candles a day was ruled out. Now that some kind of change is a must, Beis Hillel saw in the holiday a reason for adding. Beis Shammai saw a reason to justify subtracting even though that would be contrary to the principle. We hold according to Beis Hillel.
Towards the end of Sefer Devarim Moshe tells Israel, 'Hayom hazeh Hashem Elokecha mitsavicha..."- This day Hashem, your G-d, commands you...[to perform these decrees and statutes]" On Hayom hazeh Rashi says, "b'chol yom yehiyu b'einecha chadashim"- every day [the Torah] should seem new in your eyes. As if we were just given it this very day. Other commentaries add that by thinking of new insights in Torah that will certainly create the feeling of Torah being new each and every day.
Holy writings are filled with explanations on how Chanukah is synonymous with Torah. The holiday of lights and the light of Torah go hand in hand. The fight against the Greeks and against the Hellenist Jews was a fight for Torah. The Greeks wanted to undermine Torah observance and forbid three fundamental mitsvos. Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh- declaring the New Moon and Bris Milah. The victory against Hellenism culminated in the miracle of lighting the Temple Menorah, the article which represents the channel of all spiritual influence in the world. Also written in Holy books is the idea that all of the chidushim- new insights in Torah are influenced by the Ohr Haganuz- the hidden light, This light was created the first day of creation. It was not hidden till the first Saturday night but to distinguish it from regular light we called it the Ohr Haganuz.
The Ohr Haganuz was not created hidden. In fact, every day of creation it says "there was evening and there was morning" except for Friday. There was no 'night' Friday night. Now that Adam had been created that spiritual light could serve its purpose of influencing Torah insights. It shone for 36 hours straight, from Friday morning through till Saturday night. Because of Adam’s sin and due to the new course that Creation would take, Hashem saw fit to hide that light so the wicked people destined to be born would not misuse it. The 36 hours the Ohr Haganuz shone is reflected (pun intended) by and in the 36 candles with which we light the menorah over the 8 days of Chanukah (1+2+3...+8) . Mystical writings tell us that via the flames of our Chanukah lights a little of the Ohr Haganuz is released back into the world. It is the spiritual source of the inspiration that manifests itself as chidushim in Torah.
Now we have a new insight into the opinion of Beis Hillel. Just as Chanukah represents new insights in Torah, a newness we are obligated to experience each day, so too do we add a new candle to the menorah each day. And that new candle will release more Ohr Haganuz which then influence more insights in Torah.
A related tangent. The second verse of creation says, "And the land was desolate and void and darkness was on the face of the deep." The Midrash says these four expressions, desolate, void, darkness and deep, correspond to the four kingdoms which exiled Israel. 'Darkness' is Greece. Another expression of how the exile of Greece was a fight against the light of Torah. The Chanukah lights defeat the darkness of this exile. As the blessing over the candles goes, "Lehadlik ner shel Chanukah," the gematria of "ner shel Chanukah" = 663 = b'chol yom yehiyu b’einecha chadashim- every day [the Torah] should be new in your eyes. (Rav Wolfson notes, for the "ner shel Chanukah" gematria the word "Chanukah" is written without the vav, as it appears in the Torah. I.e. chanukas hamizbe'ach- the dedication of the Alter. Even in this context, dedication, chanukah means the introduction of something new!)
We merited the miracle of the Chanukah lights at the hands of the Kohen- Priest. Another new insight, Ko.He.N. stands for K’ilu Hayom Nitna- As if today it [Torah] were given.
The Arizal writes that the blessing over the candles should be Lehadlik ner Chanukah, without the word shel. However he arrived at that conclusion, he must be onto something since "ner Chanukah" (with its kollel of 2) = 341 = Hayom hazeh Hashem Elokecha mitsavicha- This day Hashem, your G-d, commands you (with its kollel of 5).
Applying these new insights to our opening question we have an answer. The reason Chanukah spans across two months is because the message of Chanukah is Torah. Not just any Torah, new Torah! Chanukah starts in Kislev. Great, been there! Done that! It's time for something new. Ah, the new month of Teves. And sometimes Rosh Chodesh Teves is one day, sometimes it's two days. You never know form year to the next. Always something new!
Along these lines, another insight into viewing the months of the year is by masculine and feminine characteristics. Without getting into it, the 6 winter months are masculine and the 6 summer months are feminine. Each month of one corresponds to the other. [Tishrei, the 1st winter month, lines up with Nissan, the 1st summer month. Cheshvan with Iyar (2nd and 2nd). Kislev with Sivan. Etc.] Kislev, the month which brings Chanukah’s renewal of Torah corresponds to Sivan, the month in which the Torah was first given!
The Torah reading on the 8th day of Chanukah starts Zoes Chanukas hamizbe’ach- This is dedication of the Alter. Our Rabbis refer to the 8th day Chanukah as Zoes Chanukah- this is Chanukah. It’s as if the first 7 days were just building up to the 8th day which seems to carry the essence of Chanukah on its own. Since Rosh Chodesh Teves can be one day or two days long (which means Kislev can be 29 or 30 days long) we don’t have a date on which Zoes Chanukah falls. We only know its 8 days from 25 Kislev. This climactic day of Chanukah again remarkably parallels the Revelation at Mt. Sinai in Sivan because it doesn’t have a date either other than being 50 days from the second day of Pesach.
The Greeks sought to destroy Torah observance by decree against three fundamental mitsvos; Rosh Chodesh, Shabbos and Bris Milah. The Greeks were defeated and the mitsvos were saved by the Chashmonaim! Cha.Sh.Mo.N. stands for Chodesh, Shabbos, Milah and (it wouldn’t Chanukah without a new mitsva,) Ner- flame!
And speaking of Chanukah, 8 years ago an American Torah giant, Rav Schwab zt'l, was asked whether he recommended voting for Clinton or Bush. The voter expressed a concern for foreign policy and was wondering who would be better for Israel. Rav Schwab assured the bipartisan that Israel is in Hashem’s hands and His hands alone! However- if he didn’t want to see America descend even faster into the pits of moral and ethical depravity then he should not vote for Clinton.
Oh well. To late for that lesson. But not for the former.
Now that there is a strong rumor to the possibility that it just might be that perhaps the American elections have come to an end… and the Israeli elections for a Prime Minister are about to begin, rest assured that neither Fric nor Frac have anything to do with the state of affairs for Israel or in Israel. It is only going to be our chidushim, our new insights into Torah study and observance that will extract us from this ever-darkening exile and restore Israel to its former brilliance.
It is now wonder that it is
which lays the foundation for holiday of lights which we’ll ignite next week. In Vayishlach Yaakov confronts the physical Eisav, he confronts and defeats the spiritual Eisav, Dinah is raped by Shechem and their daughter Osnas will marry Yoseph and give birth to the line of the Mashiach ben Yoseph who will pave the way for the Mashiach ben David. The sparks are just beginning to fly! So put an extra fire under the blech, add some new potatoes to the cholent and have a renewed, enlightening and insightful Shabbat Shalom!
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