Chanukah @ Shemayisrael

by Zvi Akiva Fleisher


<> King Dovid writes in T'hilim 132:17, "Orachti ner liMshichi." This refers to the kindling of Chanukah lights, which is a preparation for the revelation of Moshiach. (Rabbi Nochum of Tchernobel in Mo'or Einayim)

Similarly, in our Rosh Hashonoh prayers we say, "Vaarichas ner l'ven Yishai M'shichecho," - and a preparation of a light for the descendant of Yishai, who is your anointed, Moshiach. Indeed, ner Chanukah require "arichoh," preparation, as we must supply sufficient fuel and place the menorah in a manner that it has the ability to burn properly for the prescribed time.

Our lighting of ner Chanukah embodies more than just this mitzvoh itself. Kabalists write that the light emanating from our ner Chanukah is of the stature of the light that was present during the days of creation, which was removed from this world and is stored away, to once again be present for the righteous in the world-to-come, in the days of Moshiach.


<> The rededication of the Mikdosh on the 25th of Kislev has an antecedent. Yalkut Shimoni on M'lochim at the end of remez #184 says that the Mishkon components were completed on the same date.


<> The fifth night of Chanukah never falls on a Shabbos. This gives it the unique status of shedding light on a night that is considered the darkest, as it is never on Shabbos. The concept of light illuminating from the depths is the same as Moshiach appearing at the end of our long golus, the light at the end of a very long dark tunnel. Ner "Chamishi" is especially connected to Moshiach, as they both contain the same letters. (Nirreh li)


<> Medrash Chanukah says that the Greeks attempted to abolish Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, and ritual circumcision. The Torah is replete with mitzvos. Why did they pick on specifically these 3 mitzvos?

Our victory over the Greeks is symbolized by our lighting the Chanukah menorah. No doubt it must therefore embody the essence of the fight and victory over the Greeks. Although the Mikdosh has a vessel that corresponds to the Holy written Torah, the Aron Kodesh, the menorah corresponds to the oral Torah, Torah "she'b'al peh." Although all mitzvos have varying amounts of Torah "she'b'al peh" components, for example, the Torah itself doesn't tell us how or in which area of an animal's body ritual slaughter should take place, what tefillin/totofos are, what the fringes of a four-cornered garment are made of, etc., etc., these three mitzvos are uniquely Torah "she'b'al peh" based. Shabbos takes place from the advent of the seventh day of the week until its completion. Nevertheless, a person can accept upon himself the sanctity of Shabbos earlier and it has the halachic ruling of Shabbos on a Torah level regarding certain halochos (see Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh on the words "laasos es haShabbos," Shmos 31:16).

Rosh Chodesh is totally based on the court's announcing or not announcing the advent of the new month. The decision of the earthly court is binding, establishing the dates of Yomim Tovim even if in the Celestial court would have ruled otherwise (see mishnoh R.H.).

Circumcision likewise is a mitzvoh that drives home the lesson that although Hashem gave us this world in a seemingly complete state, with a wonderful self-sustaining eco-system, etc., nevertheless He created man incomplete and imperfect. It is the bnei Yisroel's responsibility to bring their bodies to spiritual completeness. These three mitzvos have this common denominator, which runs head-on contrary to the ideology of the Greeks. They posited that this world is totally physical and theology plays no part in the physical realm. These three mitzvos in particular teach us otherwise. This is the message of the menorah, of the power of Torah "she'b'al peh," the Torah transmitted by humans. (Nirreh li)

<> Similarly, we light a total of 36 lights on Chanukah, which correspond to the 36 gemoros of Shas. (Bnei Yisos'chor)

<> The words "BI'MEI MATISYOHU BEN YOCHONON" have the numerical value of 1,099, the same as the three mitzvos that the Greeks sought to annul, Shabbos, Chodesh, and Miloh. (Imrei Chaim)


<> We have just mentioned that the Greeks put special effort into abolishing the mitzvos of Shabbos, Kidush Hachodesh, and Miloh. We have a remembrance of these three mitzvos in our kindling Chanukah lights. Including the "shamash," the accompanying light, we have a total of forty-four lights for all of Chanukah when we are "m'hadrin min hamhadrin." A month has 29 days when the Rabbis intercede, as otherwise it automatically becomes a 30 day month. Shabbos is the 7th day. Circumcision, when done on time, is on the 8th day. Twenty-nine, Chodesh, plus seven, Shabbos, plus eight, Miloh, equal 44. (Shomati mi'ben gisi R' Boruch G.)


<> We know that each vessel in the Mikdosh embodied unique qualities; the Aron haKodesh corresponds to the Torah, the shulchan to livelihood, the altar to service and prayer, etc. The menorah likewise symbolizes the Holy Torah. Why do we have two items in the Mikdosh representing the same concept? The Aron haKodesh represents the written Torah, while the menorah represents the oral Torah, Torah "sheb'al peh." Just as oil is a simple liquid, but when utilized properly, it gives forth light, so too, the written word has much depth to be expounded. The written Torah is not subject to being forgotten, as it is a text. We can always refer back to it. However, the oral Torah, transmitted from teacher to disciple from generation to generation, is subject to forgetfulness, "shikchoh." The Greeks attempted to destroy the oral Torah, "l'hashkichom Toro'secho." They claimed that since it came from man it does not have the validity of Torah given by Hashem. However, we counter this by saying that it is Toro'seCHO, YOURS.


<> Yaakov forgot "pachim k'tanim," small vessels (gemara Chulin 91a). These contained oil, which he wanted to use as a libation upon his altar, to dedicate it. When Yaakov fetched the jars of oil and poured them upon the altar, the empty vessels refilled themselves. (Sifsei Kohein parshas Va'yishlach and Chid"o in Midbar K'deimos). We thus have a precedent of using oil to dedicate an altar, a component of the Mikdosh, and to its miraculously refilling (second opinion of the Beis Yoseif). "Pachim k'tanim" (i"h) has the numerical value of Shas, thus the oil used for dedication by Yaakov alludes to the oral Torah. (Nirreh li)

We also find in M'lochim 2:4 that Elisha performed a miracle, having a small vessel containing oil continuously issuing forth more and more oil until there were no empty vessels to receive more. This miracle was wrought to supply a source of income for the widow of Ovadioh. He borrowed money to support 100 Torah scholars who were in hiding. His wife was unable to repay the debt and was threatened with the confiscation of her children to pay off the debt. Torah scholars are the light of the world. (Nirreh li)


<> We have just mentioned the "pachim k'tanim" which Yaakov forgot and went back to fetch. At that time he encountered the archangel of Eisov, who combated with him. "Pachim k'tanim" has the numerical value of 359. The 359th day of the Gregorian calendar is December 25th. This is Eisov's holiest day of the year. His powers are such that some refrain from learning Torah on its eve until half the night, called "nittel." Some say that its source is that the descendants of Eisov staged attacks and pogroms on that night, part of their holiday ritual. It simply wasn't safe to venture from home, and many people used to learn in public study halls, which were well lit. Early commentators say that the oil that was miraculously found in the Beis Hamikdosh was one of the "pachim k'tanim" that Yaakov retrieved. The pure lights of Chanukah counter the negative powers of Eisov present during this time of the year. (Nirreh li)


<> In the Torah we find a case of fuel not being consumed, "V'hasneh einenu ukol" (Shmos 3:2). There is remez to the month of Kisleiv here in verse 4, "Ki Sor Liros Vayikra," whose first letters spell out Kislev in order. This is only place in Tanach where the first letters of words spell Kislev in order. (Ro'isi)


<> The gemara Shabbos tells of the miracle of finding an uncontaminated cruse of oil, which had the seal of the Kohein Godol upon it. It was fit for kindling the menorah, but there was only sufficient oil to burn for one night, and it miraculously lasted for eight nights.

Why would there be a seal of the Kohein Godol upon it? The medrash at the beginning of parshas T'tza'veh says that the words "V'yikchu EI'LECHO shemen zayis zoch kosis lamo'or," teach us that the oil for the menorah must be brought to the leader of the generation for inspection. Since there is a requirement of "kosis lamo'or," totally pure, it must pass his inspection. This explains why the Kohein Godol would apply his "hech'sher" to the oil.

Alternatively, the Sfas Emes offers that the cruse of oil was that of the Kohein Godol, who had the privilege and responsibility to daily offer "minchas chavitin," a type of meal offering, which is mixed with oil (Vayikra 6:13). Although the oil for a meal offering does not have the stringency of "kosis lamo'or," nevertheless it is acceptable (gemara M'nochos 86b). Although the Torah does not burden the public to go to the expense of accompanying their meal offerings with the prima d'prima of oils (gemara M'nochos 86b), but the Kohein Godol at that time chose to do so. We might say that this is the reason the Rabbis instituted the concept of "m'hadrin" and "m'hadrin min hamhadrin" for kindling ner Chanukah, since the Kohein Godol was "m'ha'deir." Had he not done this "hidur mitzvoh" there would have been no appropriate oil for the menorah.

This explanation clarifies a most interesting statement of Rabbi Achai Gaon in his Shiltos on parshas Va'yishlach. He writes that the oil found in the Beis Hamikdosh was INSUFFICIENT for even one day of burning. There exists such a text in Megilas Taanis as well. (Obviously, this preempts the most answered question, that raised by the Beis Yoseif: Why do we have eight days of Chanukah if the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days was only a miracle of seven extra days?) This is most unusual. Why would someone package an insufficient amount for this mitzvoh?

However, if the oil was originally destined for use in the "minchas chavitin," it is very understandable. The gemara M'nochos 87b says that the amount of oil used daily for the menorah was "lug" for each light, times 7 lamps = 3 "lug." The same gemara says that the amount required for the "minchas chavitin" was 3 "lug."

Alternatively, the amount found was the regular 3 "lug" volume for the menorah, but it was insufficient because the menorah that was used was a new wooden vessel, as the golden menorah was defiled. The new wood, never used before to contain liquids, was porous and absorbed some of the oil. Therefore enough was not enough. (Bnei Yisos'chor)


<> "V'Yaakov nosa Sukosoh va'yi'ven lo boyis ulmikneihu ossoh sukos" (Breishis 33:17). Our three patriarchs correspond to the three festivals that require a pilgrimage to Yerusholayim. Avrohom corresponds to Pesach, Yitzchok to Shovuos, and Yaakov to Sukos. This verse relates that Yaakov came to a place called Sukos. Some say that it would be its name in the future, based on the occurrence here recorded, while others say that it was already named Sukos, but without a letter Vov after the Kof, and only afterwards it was named Sukos with a Vov.

The word "lo" in this verse seems superfluous, as it is clearly stated that for his livestock he made "sukos," indicating that the earlier building was for human habitat. This word alludes to the festival following Sukos, namely Chanukah. "Lo" has the numerical value of 36, the total number of lights kindled by those who fulfill this mitzvoh "limhadrin min hamhadrin," most scrupulously.

This is also the point of mentioning that he built himself a "bayis," as this is an absolutely necessary component of the fulfillment of kindling Chanukah lights, "ner, ish u'VEISO." (Sfas Emes)

Incidentally, R'vid Hazohov says that these words are the Torah source for the ruling that a sukoh is only valid if it is a temporary structure, "diras aro'i." When describing the building of his house we find "va'yiven," he BUILT, i.e. a secure structure, while for constructing the sukos the verse says "ossoh," he MADE, i.e. a temporary structure.


<> The gemara Shabbos 21a says, "B'CHof-Hei b'Kisleiv yomei d'Chanukah tamnia inun," - On the 25th of Kisleiv days of Chanukah eight they are. Taken literally, the gemara seems to be saying that ON the 25th of Kisleiv we have the eight days of Chanukah. Since Chanukah BEGINS on the 25th and lasts for eight days, why didn't the gemara say "MEI-Chof-Hei," FROM the 25th?

One of the Beis Yoseif's answers is that they immediately split the oil into eight equal parts, and on the first day they experienced the miracle of having a 1/8th supply miraculously suffice for that day. Thus, the first day itself embodied and was a portender for the next seven days having the miracle repeated. If so, we have the miracle of all eight days on the first day. (Nirreh li)


<> The gemara Shabbos 21 says that the Rabbis established and made these days a festival starting the next year. The Rabbis established Purim the year of its happening, so why by Chanukah did they push it off until the following year? Although the threat of annihilation was very real, Purin brought about no casualties among the bnei Yisroel. There was no reason to push off the festival. Leading up to the miracle of Chanukah there were wars, and the bnei Yisroel suffered numerous casualties. The Rabbis did not want to establish a new festival when there were many people in the year of mourning. (Pis'chei Torah) Alternatively, they waited until the completion of the miracle, and when it ended the eight days that might have been Chanukah that year had passed. (Nirreh li)


<> The gemara goes on to say, "k'vo'UM vaaso'UM Yomim Tovim," - They established THEM and made THEM Yomim Tovim. What is the intention of stressing THEM? Why didn't the gemara simply say that the Rabbis established eight days of Chanukah? It is obvious that they were the same days as the miracle occurred. The Chasam Sofer answers the Beis Yoseif's question by saying that the year in which the miracle took place had a 29 day month of Kislev. Even though the miracle was only for seven days, as pointed out by the Beis Yoseif, our Rabbis extended Chanukah by one day so that it would include the 2nd of Teves even on a year that Kislev has 30 days because in the year of the miracle the 2nd of Teves was also a day of the miracle. This explains why the gemara says that they established THEM, the calendar days of the miracle, and this is why they "established," meaning that they created an eight day, and not a seven day Yom Tov. (Nirreh li)

Possibly, this is also the intention of the added word "eilu," in "Al hanisim," "v'kovu shmonas y'mei Chanukah EILU." They established THESE 8 days, regardless of which day the final calendar day of Chanukah is.


<> The gemara goes on to say that they set aside these days and made them YOMIM TOVIM. Why the plural form? The Greeks were set on abolishing the setting of Chodesh by the courts, based on lunar sightings. This of course establishes the exact date of all the Yomim Tovim as well. In Eretz Yisroel there are eight days of actual Yom Tov, the first and seventh days of Pesach, Shovuos, two days of Rosh Hashonoh, Yom Kippur, Sukos, and Shmini Atzerres. We can thus say that the intention of the gemara is that they set aside these days as Chanukah and also rejoiced in being able to establish eight days of Yomim Tovim. (ChasaN Sofer)


<> The "mesoroh" lists three verses that have the common word "ki." They are, "Ki vorchov nolin" (Breishis 19:2), "Ki vasukos hoshavti es bnei Yisroel" (Vayikra 23:43), and "Ki ner mitzvoh v'Sorah ohr" (Mishlei 6:23). The Chid"o in Pnei Dovid explains the connection. He relates that when he was a child an explanation for this "mesoroh" was asked of a "chochom" and he gave no verbal response, but instead, wrote the letters Yud-Kof-Lamed-Mem-Nun-Samech-Ayin-Pei on a sheet of paper. Pnei Dovid explains that there are three mitzvos that require/involve placement of at least 10 handbreadths and no more than twenty cubits. They are Sukoh, that its walls be at least ten handbreadths tall, but no more than twenty cubits high, alluded to in our verse, "ki vasukos," "eiruv," that the placement of a visible object delineating the division between certain domains, a "koreh," (actually for "shitu'fei m'vu'os," but these terms are used interchangeably in the gemara Eiruvin) be placed between these same two distances, alluded to in "ki vorchov nolin," and Chanukah lights, that they too be placed at ten handbreadths (In this Chanukah differs somewhat from the other two. There below ten is not valid, while by ner Chanukah it is actually preferable according to most authorities to place the menorah below ten handbreadths down to three, but no lower, see Sh.O. O.Ch. 671:6 and Mishnoh Bruroh #27.) from the ground and higher, but no more than twenty cubits, alluded to in "ki ner mitzvoh." This is the "mesoroh" connection.

We now come to the cryptic Yud-etc. message. It stands for "Yud Kosher L'maloh Mei'esrim Ner Sukoh Eiruv Posul."

I truly hope that this beautiful insight is enhanced and not marred by the following addition: The connection among these three mitzvos, each having the parameters of ten handbreadths and twenty cubits is actually found in the word "ki" itself. Kof has the value of twenty, while Yud has the value of ten. (Nirreh li)


<> Matisyohu and his sons physically did battle with the Greeks and Hellenists. This mirrored the spiritual war of Hashem against the Greeks and Hellenists. "Hashem Elokei Yisroel melech umalchuso bakole mosholoh" (Rosh Hashonoh prayer) numerically equals "Matisyohu ben Yochonon Kohein Godol Chashmono'i uvonov." (Pre-lighting prayer authored by Rabbi Zvi Elimelech of Dinov)


<> We have earlier mentioned a few connections between our Patriarch Yaakov and Chanukah. In keeping with the maxim that "maa'sei ovos siman labonim," that which happened to our forefathers is a portender of what will take place with the descendants, a possible source for "mosarto giborim b'yad chaloshim" might be the verse "ki FODOH Hashem es Yaakov ug'olo mi'yad CHOZOK mi'menu" (Yirmiyohu 31:6), because Hashem has redeemed Yaakov from someone stronger than he. FODOH had the numerical value of 89, the same as Chanukah. (Nirreh li)


<> The Holy Zohar writes that there is an extension to the final judgment of Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur. It is the final day of Chanukah, named "Zose Chanukah." This is alluded to by the words, "b'ZOSE y'chupar avone Yaakov" (Yeshayohu 27:9). (Taa'mei Haminhogim)

<> A mathematical allusion to the eighth day of Chanukah being a day of the final sealing of judgment for the year is: YOM, a day, equals 56. Eight days, eight times YOM equals 448. The word "chosom," a seal, equals 448. (Ahavas Yisroel)


<> The verse in Bmidbar 7:88 reads, "ZOSE chanukas hamizbei'ach ACHA'REI himoshach oso" - Four verses earlier we find the words "ZOSE chanukas hamizbei'ach B'YOM himoshach oso." The Holy Admor of Kotzk says that to have enthusiasm at the time of the inauguration of the Mishkon comes easily, as is human nature when encountering anything of interest for the first time. The true test of being connected to something is after the glamour of the newness fades. One should feel the CHANUKAH, the dedication, "ACHA'REI himoshach oso," afterwards, with the same enthusiasm as "B'YOM himoshach oso."

Perhaps a new interpretation of a nomenclature given to the last day of Chanukah, "ZOSE CHANUKAH," can be understood in a new "light." On a simple level the name "ZOSE CHANUKAH" is given to the eighth day of Chanukah because the Torah reading of that day includes "ZOSE chanukas hamizbei'ach B'YOM himoshach oso" (7:84). Since this is the last day of Chanukah, it is human nature that the excitement of Chanukah has dissipated. Yet we find the message of Chanukah is "maalin bakodesh," - we elevate ourselves in sanctity, demonstrated by following the opinion of Beis Hillel, that we increase the number of Chanukah lights each night. Perhaps the reason the last day of Chanukah is called "ZOSE CHANUKAH," is not in reference to "ZOSE chanukas hamizbei'ach B'YOM himoshach oso" (7:84), but rather to verse 88, "ZOSE chanukas hamizbei'ach ACHA'REI himoshach oso," teaching us that we must take the values taught by Chanukah with us for later, and to retain them with great enthusiasm.


Chanukah @ Shemayisrael