THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
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You can also read previous studies on this site.
GREEK CULTURE SEES THE BEAUTIFUL AS GOOD (e.g. Aphrodite); TORAH TRADITION VIEWS THE GOOD AS BEAUTIFUL (e.g. a shainer yid).-- see our Chanuka videos-- Lights, The Maccabees, Chanuka at Bubby's, and The 8th Day.
THIS STUDY IS SPONSORED BY A KIND ANONYMOUS DONOR ABROAD, WHOSE HEART IS IN JERUSALEM.
PARTS OF THIS STUDY APPEARED, EDITED AND SOMEWHAT ABRIDGED, IN THE 1995 CHANUKA ISSUE OF THE JERUSALEM POST'S "RELIGIOUS LIFE IN JERUSALEM":
From Echoes of The Song of The Nightingale, by Rav Leon M. Mozeson
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A. THE CHANUKA TORAH READINGS
On the first day of Chanuka, celebrating the Hasmonean rededication of the defiled Second Temple, we read Numbers 7:1-17; the passage deals with the tribal princes' joint offerings of wagons and oxen upon the completion, anointing and sanctification of the tabernacle, during Israel's desert trek from Egypt to Israel; it concludes with the special first day of dedication offerings of utensils and sacrifices by Prince Nachshon of Yehuda. On the other 7 days, we read of identical offerings, by the other tribal princes, one each day, from Numbers 7:18-59. On the one or two Shabbatot of Chanuka, we also read the usual weekly portion, always Miketz for the second Shabbat; on Rosh Chodesh Tevet, the order of Rosh Chodesh sacrifices precedes the Chanuka reading. If Rosh Chodesh Tevet occurs on Shabbat Chanuka, we read from 3 Torahs. On the 8th day, called Zos Chanuka, we also read about the offerings of Princes 9-12, and the grand summary of their dedicatory offerings, Aharon's command to light the pure gold menora, and God's manifestation to Moshe, raison d'etre of the Tabernacle and all places of worship (Numbers 7:60-89, 8:1-4).
Chanuka celebrates a victory of a few, who clung to Jewish tradition, over many who were dedicated to contemporary secular culture (may a new Channel 7 Jewish TV soon replace pagan Channels 1 & 2; may a modern yeshiva, where Torah interfaces with all human knowledge and experience, soon replace the present H.U. -- Hebrew or Heretical University-- Bible Department). The Chanuka Torah readings return us to the dedication of the modest original Tabernacle in the desert, never defiled or destroyed. "WHY HAS THE TABERNACLE SURVIVED, THO CONCEALED, TO THIS DAY?-- FOR IT WAS BUILT BY VIRTUOUS MEN, DEVOUT OF HEART. IN THE DAYS TO COME, GOD WILL AGAIN DESCEND TO DWELL IN IT" (Tana D've Eliyahu Raba 25). It was built only by Jews, who donated their work and wealth without compulsion, or even the social pressure of UJA. But our 2 magnificent Temples, partially built by aliens, financed by forced levies, were eventually rejected by God-- may we soon build the Third Temple as God's true house, never again to be destroyed. But the present undignified tawdry scene at the Wall today shows that we're still far from ready to operate a truly holy temple.
NUMBERS 7:1-9 describes the joint offerings of the 12 tribal princes for the just completed and sanctified Tabernacle. Together they brought 12 oxen and 6 wagons. This demonstrated equality and unaminity of the tribes in their relationship to the tabernacle, focal point of the Torah experience, uniting diverse Jews (Rav S. R. Hirsch; cf. the Wall today). 2 Wagons and 4 oxen were given to the Levite family of Gershon, who transported the curtains of the tabernacle; it accompanied the Jews during their desert trek and conquest of the Land; 4 wagons and 8 oxen were used by the M'rari Levite subtribe, who moved the beams, bars, and pillars (Num. 4:24-32). The third subtribe, K'hot, transported the holy vessels, e.g. the ark, the table for the showbread, the menora, and the altars (Num. 4:4), on their shoulders (no wagons were used). Anyone other than a priest who touched these holy objects died (cf. dangerous things in God's Creation, e.g. poison ivy, free love, looking directly at the sun, smoking and leaning over the top of a tall building); so only after the priests wrapped the holy objects, did the K'hotites lift their staves. So fire, tho giving warmth and the light of our Chanuka candles, is dangerous if you get too close-- cf. the burning bush. Yet it originates with lifeless fuel and wicks; perhaps focusing on the vibrant Chanuka candles reminds us to praise God for lighting a Hasmonean fire from the moribund assimilated Hellenistic Jews of yore; who can turn on Meretz today?-- more likely Dudu Fisher than Rav Ovadia or Rav Shach.
This division of function between Cohanim and Leviim may teach a broader message-- the holiest men, cohanim, closest to God, while they preserve essential core holiness, are not the ones to move the Torah about with the wanderings of the Jews; this is the task of the Levites, holy teachers of Jews everywhere (cf. Habad); Levites also run rehabilitation centers for sinners who have committed negligent manslaughter, within Levitical cities (cf. Habad drug programs in CA); they're the only Jews permitted to take money (via tithes) for teaching Oral Torah to adults, per Maimonides-- see his diatribe against professional teachers of Torah, e.g. Roshei Yeshiva, in his commentary on Rav Tzadok's warning against making the Torah a crown wherewith to magnify yourself, nor a spade with which to dig (Avot 4:7)-- see also Avot 2:2, 1:13, 3:6, and M.T. Talmud Torah 3:10, where Rambam writes: Anyone whose heart leads him to be pre-occupied with Torah and not work, supporting himself from charity, has disgraced God's Name, degraded the Torah and extinguished the light of religion; he's harmed himself and lost the world to come, for it's forbidden to benefit from the words of Torah in this world-- cf. kollels today; but, at the end of his Laws of Shmita and Yovel, Rambam does permit a zealous scholar to just work occasionally, rather than practising a regular profession.
Other authorities nevertheless feel that we must have non-Levite paid Torah teachers today, due to the low level of Jewish knowledge, after all our recent suffering and wanderings. This, as all emergency dispensations, e.g. sale of land to a non-Jew in the sabbatical year, must be periodically reviewed to see if an emergency still exists-- a model modern Israel could be structured to develop highly trained individual consultants, businessmen and craftsmen, who work half a day at high rates (about 3 hours, per Rambam, M.T. T.T. 1:12-- cf. 3:9, see Kid. 30a), live modestly, and spend the rest of their time learning and teaching Torah and doing good deeds free, preserving their integrity and independence of thought.
Israel is probably the only place where such a society can be set up, a model for all mankind. An outstanding example of blending Torah and ways of the world is the Yeshivat Hesder system; its students may be the closest thing to perfection in an imperfect world-- soldiers who don't forget the Torah and scholars who don't forget that evil armies must be fought with guns. They're the true descendants of the Maccabees-- from Rav S. Riskin; but I disagree with his conclusion that, in a perfect world, those who choose to sit and learn Torah should be supported by the community; only in a terrible situation, e.g. Eastern Europe, where there were no skilled high-paying professions, was this necessary. Otherwise, Rambam's ideal should apply-- that the Torah not be used for one's own ends (Hillel, quoted by R. Tzadok; he also urged scholars not to separate themselves from the community-- Avot 4:7; should one pray in yeshivot or shuls who don't even pray for the soldiers and state of Israel?).
NUMBERS 7:10-59: After their joint communal offering, each prince was told to bring THE SAME individual offering on HIS OWN particular day. Each tribe had its own unique characteristics and talents. All are to be purified via connection to God's Torah, which they are to express via their particular life style or emphasis. Together, the 12 form an Israeli model for diverse humanity to return to Eden. The princes are called both PRINCES OF ISRAEL and HEADS OF THEIR FATHERS' HOUSES (7:2). This reflects their dual role-- to be inspiring NATIONAL leaders and to integrate their PARTICULAR tribal nature with the national mission (Hirsch).
Each brought a 130 shekel silver dish (per A. Kaplan, 104 oz., when a shekel was really a holy shekel!) and a 70 shekel silver basin (of the same shape and size, with thinner walls, per Sifri); both were full of fine flour mixed with oil for a meal offering (both the necessities and pleasures of life are to be blended harmoniously, dedicated to God, and must be brought in pure vessels-- cf. kiddush on wine, the symbol of sensual pleasure, and washing, lifting up, the hands before starting the day's work and before consuming it's most basic reward, bread, the product of man's most basic technology and power). Each gave a 10 shekel (8 oz.) gold cup, filled with incense. Finally, an array of animal sacrifices were presented; these vividly portrayed the connection of body and spirit, both in God's hands.
Thus the high priest on Yom Kippur, peak of the sacrificial service year, achieved awesome radiance-- his appearance inspired ecstatic public worship. Per Rav J. B. Soloveichik, he radiated man's Divine Image potential, gradually obscured since increasingly monkey-like man descended from his Edenic glory.
Each prince brought a young bull, a ram, and a first year male lamb for a burnt offering, vicariously experiencing the Divine link to both sides of a human being-- active bullish creative man, pursuing unlimited progress, and passive, helpless lamblike man, surrendering before that which he cannot conquer alone, especially death itself; the greatest genius can fall before one malignant cell (Rav JBS). Each prince brings a MALE goat as his sin offering-- a symbol of probable abuse of his male active conquering power (an ordinary Jew, under the sway of princes, brings a female goat for his wrongs, perhaps symbolic of his inability to retain his nobility amidst his passive fate). 2 oxen, 5 rams, 5 male goats and 5 first year male lambs are brought as peace offerings by each prince, expressing gratitude to God for life's blessings, upon the festive dedication of the tabernacle.
THE ETERNAL MENORA
Rashi claims that Aharon, the Prince of the Levites, felt inadequate, when only the other tribal princes brought elegant gifts for the tabernacle (cf. Midrash Tanchuma); Rav Soloveichik expressed his similar feelings-- as a Rosh Yeshiva, he can't afford to donate holy structures. Rashi explains that God placated him with a far higher task-- lighting the holy menora in the holy tabernacle (B'haaloscha, Numbers 8:1ff); Ramban prefers earlier interpretations, perhaps unknown to Rashi. They claim that God appeases Aharon by hinting, in His eternal Torah, that his Hasmonean descendants will do something far higher than dedicating a new, exciting and inspiring tabernacle-- they'll clean up and REdedicate the sullied 2nd Temple, trimming and REkindling the CHANUKAH menora. It's much harder to REBUILD, all one's hopes shattered, than to venture forth with youthful optimism (cf. the birth of Israel, fighting against all odds, right after the Shoa); so Rav Mordecai Gafni notes that the mitzva of imitating God includes His acts, not just his attributes; thus when the Talmud states that God built and destroyed many worlds before this one, we're to follow His example and try to build new worlds upon those destroyed, e.g. remarrying and building a new business after divorce and business failure (are we also to destroy unsuccessful worlds before its too late, so that we can rebuild?). So the other priestly ETERNAL role, blessing Israel, is placed just BEFORE the princes'offerings. To bless them, to raise their spirits, even in exile, requires extraordinary faith and spirit-- as Aharon's.
The menora represents another eternal Levite role-- to keep the lamp of Torah study burning, even in exile, until it again is an Israeli Law of Life. Even Rambam might allow salaries for Levite kollels and Roshei Yeshiva. The cohen's role is also greater than that of other Jews, in that he dedicates himself, not just his money, to God's service (cf. aliya and UJA donations). May all Israel regain their light and insight, as we again relight the Maccabees' candles, after more than 2000 years, in 5757.
The Torah describes each prince's IDENTICAL offering in detail; this lengthy repetition may teach that the same outward act may be experienced quite differently by each person doing it. My big brother and my father may both hit me exactly the same way, but with quite different mindsets. We all pray the same words and do the same mitzvos, uniting us, but with vastly different thoughts and feelings (Baker; The Chabad Rebbe-- Week In Review, 5:18; so non-Orthodox Jews and rabbis may perform those mitzvos which somehow strike their fancy, but, at least on a conscious level, they usually won't acknowledge that they're thus fulfilling a Divine commandment, lest they feel obligated to perform them all, e.g. not dancing with others' wives, not driving on Shabbat, no Big Macs). Midrashim demonstrate how each prince's name reflects the history and destiny of his tribe (otherwise why learn them?), leading to their unique intent in offering their tabernacle gifts.
For example, Yissachar's forte is learning Torah-- HIS silver vessels would represent the written and oral law, both indivisible, filled with the same "fine flour", Torah; it must merge with "oil", symbolic of good deeds. For majestic Yehuda, the same objects had different significance. The 2 silver vessels represent his heirs, Shlomo and the Meshiach, who rule over land and sea. Some Midrashim even claim each prince PICKED these detailed gifts on his own! All reached the same conclusion from totally different Divine perspectives (Num. Raba 14:26); cf. approaches of primarily male intellect and primarily female intuition to an issue; independent researchers often simultaneously make the same discoveries, when God wants such knowledge in the world, tho from different perspectives; Profs. Y. Schroeder and N. Aviezer both worked on Big Bang Theory and Genesis, but didn't know of each other until I introduced them; Yael Levine Katz, Tzipora Heller and I all wrote on The Woman of Valor about the same time in our feminist age, 1992-4.
The Torah may be teaching another message-- prominent creative people, as the princes, usually only want to sponsor unique celebrations and donations, expressive of their own personality. Here we recapture the princes' unusual mood at the dedication, as each abandoned his usual pride to submit to God's will; each prince brings exactly the same prescribed offering day after day. Imagine contemporary fundraising for charity without the ego element (is it possible?). Yet, a separate day IS given each tribal prince, for celebrations are not to be mixed-- even Yerushalmi weddings and Bar Mitzvas, with virtually identical food. After all the magnificent princely gifts, God speaks from the tent-- but ONLY TO MOSHE!
One midrash stresses princely harmony, so high at this moment that all natural rivalry was forgotten (cf. Sinai); then God could view each prince as being equally involved in his cohorts' gifts. The 12 separate tribes each perform unique functions in the national fabric, all indispensible for the effectiveness of the others' contributions (cf. Tzahal, recipes, families, chief rabbis and orchestras). The tribes are listed here in their desert marching order (Num. 2). Nachshon of Yehuda is first-- he was first to jump into the Red Sea, before it split, at Exodus. A leader must possess positive individuality; but his true uniqueness is to be expressed by bravery and nobility, rather than mere egotism or attention-seeking purposeless non-conformity. The Torah now totals all the gifts brought, simple arithmetic; perhaps it wants to insure, indeed, that all Jews at least master arithmetic and value such skills! Gestalt Midrashim see meaning in the total sums-- e.g. 12 silver vessels correspond to 12 months, constellations, and basic human organs. So the Temple's called "neck" (Gen. Raba 93:12), connecting lower and higher worlds; it's the true Great Neck, where U.S. Jews should aspire to be. The neck's 7 vertabrae may thus correspond to Shabbat; this approach interfaces with the concept that Man, image of the Creating Lord, is a microcosm of the entire structure of the universe.
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B. THE HAFTARA FOR SHABAT #1 OF CHANUKA IS ZECHARIA 2:14-4:7 (also read with B'haaloscha).
We joyfully anticipate the final redemption of fallen humanity via Israel and its temple. This slow historical process flows from the modest beginnings of that minority of Jews who returned from rich Babylonia, to build the 2nd Temple, and the few Maccabees who salvaged it (cf. today; but the Third Temple will only be built when no one opposes it, including the Arabs; we have to shape up soon, so that they'll accept our Yitzchakian leadership, and join our mission, as Noachides-- see Ramban, Gen. 26:19ff). Zecharia began his prophecy about 17 years after his return from Cyrusian Babylon. He tried to revive the spirit of the Jews, who'd abandoned rebuilding the temple, due to natural disaster and hostile neighbors. He focuses on their 2 great leaders-- Governor Zerubavel and high priest Yehoshua (the 2 olive trees beside the menora in his vision-- Radak). His message is: Right shall overcome might; the little Chanuka light, which burnt so long, symbolizes Jewish spirit, the source of the Maccabees' military victory.
The rabbis DID celebrate the victory in our prayers of Chanuka, but called attention to its source and aim, via the mitzva of lighting candles. "SING AND REJOICE, DAUGHTER OF ZION-- FOR, WOW, I COME AND WILL DWELL IN YOUR MIDST-- THE WORD OF GOD. MANY NATIONS WILL CLEAVE TO GOD ON THAT DAY, AND WILL BECOME MY PEOPLE (Noahides), BUT I'LL DWELL IN YOUR MIDST-- AND GOD WILL ONCE MORE CHOOSE JERUSALEM". Zecharia then sees Yehoshua standing before the angel of God, with Satan (i.e. the evil in man) standing at his right hand to hinder him (symbolic of the Jew as priest of mankind, broken by centuries of persecution and wandering). Tho God expels Satan, Yehoshua still wears "filthy garments" (a flawed exterior-- cf. Israel today, especially its TV, almost bereft of Jewish content; but, as nature obhors a vacuum, per Spinoza, so our TV is not parve, but inculcates Western decadence). Angels are told to remove the soiled garments, erasing Yehoshua's sinful background. He's to don "pure" garments, in a second Jewish chance to guide humanity. Both in his personal life and his job as Temple custodian, he must study and observe Torah. Then he'll be a powerful example, teaching the people in his new pure garments (M. Hirsch)-- "THEN I'LL GIVE YOU ACTIVE MOVERS AMONG THOSE WHO STAND HERE MOTIONLESS (3:7; cf. 3:1,3,5, where Yehoshua, Satan and the other angels are all STANDING)-- with proper spirit, the Jewish people will overcome all physical obstacles. The hosts, forces of God's Creation, will then become active guiding "movers", who aid the prophetic mission-- no longer mere passive "standers"; MOVERS refers to those immortal souls who transcend death (Radak, Targum).
"LISTEN YEHOSHUA, THE HIGH PRIEST-- YOU AND YOUR COMPANIONS THAT SIT BEFORE YOU-- THEY'RE MEN OF WONDER; FOR BEHOLD I BRING MY SERVANT (Rashi: Zerubavel), AS A GROWING PLANT (3:8)"-- cf. our incipient gradually growing redemption by God today, via the State of Israel, as expressed by Rav Kook; the Lubavitcher Rebbe, loyally following his anti-Zionist predecessor, Rav Shalom Dov Ber, publicly rejected this basic religious Zionist belief, perhaps against his own inner convictions and better judgement; yet he fully supported and encouraged the State which he never visited, urged many to live here and join Tzahal, and spoke against giving up land for peace, vs. Rav JBS (no one knows what either would say, were they still alive today-- Rav Shalom Gold).
Those few poor Jews who returned to Israel from rich Babylonia were laying foundations of the Messianic Age, while their peers got rich abroad (cf. Kibutz Lavi, N.Y.'s West Side, Golders Green, & Jo-Burg). So a handful of Maccabees fought Antiochus' forced assimilation to "Greek Enlightenment"; a small number of Zionist pioneers restored Israel, rather than heading West to seek their fortunes with most of their brethern in the "goldina medina". The age of the Meshiach, a great, but human, teacher will imperceptably, AS A PLANT, grow out of the framework of study and worship established by Ezra and his followers. There will be many unnoticed silent stages, as an oak emerges from an acorn. Finally-- "ON THAT DAY, SAYS THE GOD OF HOSTS" (to whose unified structure of reality-- hosts-- all will return; cf. the en of Ps. 24), "EACH MAN WILL INVITE HIS NEIGHBOR UNDER HIS VINE AND UNDER HIS FIG TREE" (3:10-- Rambam, so long ailing, deems fruit generally unhealthful; yet he praises grapes and figs (and almonds -- see Num. 17:23; Daot 4:11)-- God, via Zecharia, knows best! But God praises pomegranates, date honey and olive oil too, in Deut. 8:8!
The angel then shows the prophet a gold menora, with its own olive trees to supply its oil (a self-sustaining Israeli Messianic economy?)-- "THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD TO ZERUBAVEL, TO PROMULGATE: NOT BY MILITARY FORCE AND NOT BY PHYSICAL STRENGTH, BUT BY MY SPIRIT" (do Jews succeed in their mission), "SAYS THE GOD OF HOSTS" (yet they must fight). "WHO ARE YOU, THE GREAT MOUNTAIN" (of Esav?)?-- "BEFORE ZERUBAVEL", (you're) "TO BE A FLAT PLAIN... (4:7)".
THE HAFTARA FOR SHABAT HANUKA II (and Vayakhel) is IK:7:40-50. Solomon's opulant temple is contrasted with the modest desert tabernacle. 10 Menoras now surround the original menora of B'tzalel. Two immense pillars, Yachin and Boaz (1K7:21), were erected at the Temple entrance; they proclaim that the whole institution is only worthwhile and viable if it fulfills the Word of God (in the end it indeed wasn't considered HIS temple-- the Jews used it for their own ends)-- The right pillar, Yachin (lit. He will establish or direct), is aligned with the menora (the spirit), on the Temple's south side; it symbolizes the Law of God as that which DEFINES and DIRECTS life, giving it structure and meaning (vs. existentialist despair, La Dolce Vita). The left pillar, Boaz (lit. IN HIM IS STRENGTH), is on the north side, with the golden table, symbol of physical strength and wealth. This pillar portrays the Law of God as the source of unconquerable strength in the Jew, and of his messianic mission. Both pillars and all Temple utensils wind up melted down in Babylonia, itself long covered by the dust of history. Nevertheless, their continuation, the modern State of Israel, will shape up; it will promulgate their messages of true strength, meaning, and direction in human existence to the whole world-- all will return to Jerusalem. Get in on the ground floor now! This year in Jerusalem!
C. WILL THE REAL MACCABEES PLEASE STAND UP!
A Hanuka ditty really gripped us, as kids at Kesher Zion Hebrew School, in Reading, Pa.:
"I WOULD LIKE TO BE A MACCABEE, SO BIG AND TALL AND STRONG...." (if you have the rest of the words, please forward them). We all have Maccabean Messianic Supermanian visions-- our good world will ultimately conquer all evil; no force can stand in our way. Unfortunately, even if we succeed, success and power often corrupt-- the Maccabean dynasties gradually sank into that very corruption and decadence, against which their brave noble ancestors fought. Hasmonean Priests got used to being kings and relished it (cf. religious parties). So the Jew fighting demonic Arab terrorists and armies today has to be careful not to ape their joy of war and carnage, Lebanon's leit-motif. Valiant soldier Yigal and dedicated Doctor Baruch can easily become assassin Yigal and mass murderer Baruch, howbeit, ostensibly, in God's Name. Still, most Jews identify with both Chanuka and the Maccabees.
I was well trained in my neo-Litvishe Williamsburg, Brooklyn (not relatively modern Williamsburg, Virginia) Yeshiva to question every assumption (except the validity of the yeshiva itself, and its neo-Slobodka mussar lifestyle!)-- such is the conquering Jewish male's traditional critical talmudic misnagdic approach to life (usually ignoring Bible and Agada). A bit of such analysis quickly reveals that very few contemporary Jews, tho they whoop it up every Chanuka, share those beliefs and convictions, for which the Maccabees risked their lives, back in those bad old days.
1) The Maccabees fought Greek adulation of man's exterior-- aesthetic form and competitive sports-- relatively trival realms, subservient to higher values, whose importance was grossly inflated by the "other side". Thus torch races, sport groups and beer in the name of the Maccabees are a travesty. Would Judah Maccabee really care if Maccabee Modein could kick a little ball better than Betar Jerusalem? Wouldn't he like Jewish sportsmen from Jerusalem just as well!
2) The Hasmoneans fought any compromise of eternal halachic Judaism, of Divine origin, with then contemporary transient Hellenist culture and values; high priest Jason was unacceptable. Thus Hanuka celebration by groups who "Hellenize" down Judaism today is hypocritical-- cf. Israel's Reform Movement's "Oneg Shabbat"s at Jerusalem's Bet Shmuel, featuring secular rock and jazz music. Even their own U.S. reform sponsors should be offended.
3) On the other hand, the Maccabees weren't content to just learn and pray, that evil infidels go away-- they revolted and fought battles; such activism (e.g. "hesder haredi") is opposed by most of the haredi world. Some thus see a ray of hope in counterproductive violent Badatz shabbat demonstrations*-- this activism and aggression may some day be turned against enemies of Israel and mankind, rather than other Jews. But our black brethren, fighters-for-the-faith, aren't in the Maccabees' situation-- non-observant Israelis today don't force haredim to drop or even water down their faith; they simply won't themselves obey religious laws, which they don't understand. Haredi violence, aggression and hatred drive them even further away from Torah. Hatikva (and a recent Israeli survey) proclaims that the Jewish soul still resounds in Jewish hearts, tho secular Jews wish to remain "a free people in our land" (our 4000 year hope, to also be a "holy people in our land", is the final refrain of the new improved Hatikva-- get it on a bumper sticker, $1 from TOP).
* their public cursing of archeologists in 1995 was attended by Jerusalem's fire-and-brimstone ashkenazic chief rabbi Kulitz, and not condemned even by Israel's chief rabbis-- they at least had the decency not to attend. While the archeologists may lack proper respect for the dead, a sin, would the Badatz rabbis like to be cursed with the loss of their arms when they sin, e.g. via suicidal smoking in their court, and giving cigarettes to young children at their weddings, inspiring young haredim to smoke away their lives.
EEE (Education, Example and Empathy), not force, is the only way to influence and convince alienated Jews today; only a beautiful harmonious Torah society can inspire others-- not Satmar vs. Chabad, Vizhnitz the Father vs. Vizhnitz the Son; many Israeli "religious" Jews are raised to be strictly observant and learned in Torah, but are secularly inept and ignorant; they often repress their own inner doubts and life frustrations; their resultant deep-seated anger and/or joyless apathy impede Torah's eventual peaceful triumph. When such "pious" Jews also lack a basic religious principle, gratitude, to the state and army which protect them, many are turned off to Torah-- please avoid synagogues and yeshivot which don't pray for our soldiers and state.
So those who rudely interrupted appearances of Teddy Kollek in The Jewish 1/4 years ago ignored a major Torah principle-- gratitude. Even Moshe couldn't strike the river which once saved him. Those who benefit daily from wonderful Jerusalem, whose reemergence was guided and directed by Teddy (now grandly carried forward by Ehud Olmart), mustn't bite the hand that feeds them, tho they can and should RESPECTFULLY and firmly disagree with secular outlooks.
Maccabees fought in the name of the unified unchangeable Divine Torah (the "Orthodox", truly traditional, belief), which will eventually prevail over both secularism, which worships collective Man, and the idolatry and/or replacement theology of many, tho not all, other religions. Esav's evil angel almost destroyed Yaakov, who suddenly prevailed at (messianic) dawn; when the evil force then begged Yaakov-Yisroel to release him, Yaakov replied: "I WON'T LET YOU GO UNTIL YOU BLESS ME"-- recognize that I'm not your enemy, but your teacher and true source of blessing, in redeemed Israel. So today-- we don't just celebrate survival of our light; we also gradually increase our chanuka lights OUTSIDE our gates, where the whole world will see them-- "FOR FROM ZION SHALL GO FORTH TORAH AND GOD'S WORD FROM JERUSALEM" (Is. 2). Secular society indeed celebrates Hanuka, but ignores its major messages.
Per Rambam, often cited by Rav J. Soloveichik, no one knows how God evaluates anyone in totality-- I can't claim God prefers a great rabbi to a street corner bum, a Maccabee to a Hellenist; only He knows their inner workings and background; nevertheless, the proper authorities must punish and stop those whose activity is likely to destroy our political and religious society; so we must give loving criticism (tochacha) to each other's actions and statements, IF, AND ONLY IF, it's likely to be productive. While I just applied tochacha to contemporary celebration of Chanuka, I've ignored 2 other important Jewish traditions, which must always accompany it-- 1) to stress also the half-full glass, all that is good in the object of tochacha (e.g. to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut) and 2) to end everything, e.g. haftarot, on a happy upbeat optomistic note; when tochacha, especially via Moshiach, will eventually lead to worldwide tshuva (repentence), everything will be good again, as it once was in Eden, where day (i.e. bright clear messianic dawn) followed night (i.e. Man's beclouded existential exile).
Perhaps implementation of those 2 highly positive traditionial maxims requires the feminine nurturing perspective of Miriam's spiritual descendants-- she convinced the broken Egyptian Jewish males to continue married life, tho Pharoh was drowning their sons; conquering males, fighting evil, need to be balanced by deep, intuitive, nurturing and encouraging female faith, and v.v. Only together, do both sexes form a complete balanced Divine Image. So when I discussed writing this article about Chanuka with Greer Fay Cashman, her immediate response was: "Great, Chanuka's such a happy, beautiful and deep holiday!-- just like Purim, it inspires virtually all Jews; they love to celebrate it-- no one has to force them!". Somehow the quiet, but beautiful, message of Chanuka candles-- that there's a God, that He cares about what we do and what happens to us, and that His Torah is mankind's only factory-authorized instruction manual-- does penetrate Jewish hearts, even tho their other chanuka celebrations contradict its origins-- we wish all both a Happy and an Authentic Chanuka!
D. FAMILY FIRST
Even penetrating skeptical Rav Dr. Dovid Hartman, who successfully slaughters so many sacred cows, accentuated the positive, decentuated the negative, in exploring Chanuka (his audio tape, Hanuka and the Family, is available at TOP); he stressed family commitment, peace and harmony, not state and military prowess, as the essential theme of Halachic Chanuka; he notes that the true glory of the mitzva of lighting chanuka candles is when each family member lights his own. This law symbolizes each Jew developing his/her own unique inner light, while sharing, and contributing to, our common Jewish familial and communal ideals. Rav S. H. Hirsch similarly notes that individual, family and religious identity and essence are restressed at the beginning of Jewish nation building in Exodus.
Rav Mordecai Gafni describes Rashi's ideal Jewish grandchildren, Baalei Tosofot-- they spent day and night questioning and disputing grandpa's conclusions, while affirming his overall values and visions. I personally believe that those haredim (not all do so) who strive to preserve every detail of Yisroel Saba's (Grandpa Israel's) life in Eastern Europe a century ago, including his unhealthful heavy food, his outmoded dress and his scientific ignorance, are as UNtraditional as the great majority of non-Orthodox rabbis and university scholars of Judaism, who deny the unity and Divinity of the Torah-- they replace it with the Documentary Hypothesis, popularized by Julius Wellhausen & Co.; such Bible Critics tried to destroy Israel's soul, linked to the authority, sanctity and unity of Torah, a century before their German descendants destroyed their bodies.
In a funny twist, Yemenite Tzadik and Sage Rav Yichye Kapach, Rav Yosef Kapach's granddad decided, about 1900, that the Yemenites had drifted from the path of Torah and science of their own Yisroel Saba, rational Rambam-- they'd been corrupted by the pseudo-Jewish kabbala, brought to Yemen only 500 years ago by new-fangled Sefardi latecomers; Kapach threw out the Zohar and revived the Rambam's path for his followers, the Dor Deah, the Generation of Understanding; he established schools blending Torah and allegedly secular disciplines, similar to the misnagdic Lithuanian Yavneh schools for little Litvaks; back in the bad old days, only the hassidim and Chatam Sofer tried to cut Jews off from the secular world, alienating so many potentially religious Jews; today's Haredi Misnagdim have unfortunately joined them, ignoring their own Yisroel Saba, the Vilna Gaon, who warned talmudists that they won't get their Torah and Talmud straight if they don't have their math and science straight; future Torah giants, such as Rav Aharon Kutler, studied in Yavneh-- they probably took along a lunch bag with a hard roll, an onion and a herring, rather than Bomba and Drake's cake. Kapach's movement is alive, well and kicking in Israel today; there are Dor Deah shuls near Shmuel Hanavi (run by a Cohen) and Bar Ilan (run by Kapach's namesake). Leading Torah sage Razon Arusi, chief rabbi of Kiryat Ono and a member of Israel's Supreme Rabbinic Council, and Avraham of Jerusalem's great reasonable restaurant, Maavad Hak'samim, near the Mashbir (I recommend their take-home salads and saluf) belong to Dor Deah.
Hartman cites a rarely applicable law, chosen by Rambam as the grand climax of his laws of Chanuka (M. T. 4:12-14): "The mitzva of a chanuka candle is extremely precious... one should even sell his cloak and buy oil and candles... it takes precedence over wine for kiddush... but if the choice is between a candle to light his home and a candle for Chanuka or wine for kiddush, an illuminated home takes precedence, for the sake of peace in his home; so God's Name is obliterated to make peace between man and his wayward wife (in the Sota ceremony)-- great is peace, for the entire Torah is given to make peace in the world, as said: `It's ways are paths of pleasantness and all its paths peace' (Prov. 3:17; cf. Mea Shearim, Bnei Brak)". The Shalom Hartman Institute's friendly non-judgmental approach engages even those non-Orthodox rabbis and Israeli educators who are far from Jewish tradition, in serious exploration of truly traditional Judaism.
Rambam's yearning for family peace and harmony may reflect his own sad childhood-- his mother died bearing him; his father despised both, when little Rambam couldn't learn well, until he later became a child prodigy; at 38, he sank into depression and couldn't function for a year after the 1168 death at sea of David, his younger half-brother and family provider; he was also Rambam's pupil, perhaps his only childhood intimate other-- Rambam calls him a "most righteous and perfect man"; "my one joy was to see him; now my joy's turned to darkness"; Rambam compares himself to forlorn Yaakov in Gen. 42:38; see his angry Cairo letter to allegedly insensitive Israeli Rav Japhet b. Eliyahu in 1176, when he was still mourning David.
Did (or could) Rambam, a medieval "lonely man of faith", ever overcome his tragic early emotional deprivation? He's the opposite of the warm, cheerful outgoing Baal Shem Tov-- did the late Habad Rebbe try to blend their personalities and perspectives in himself and his Chassidim? The Rambam's groupies may tend to be lovers of abstract concepts and systems, while those of the Besht probably are more into human feelings and common sense morality. Another interesting speculation is why misnagdic Torah giants tend to have few children, while Hassidic rabbis have many! Some of Rambam's writings may reflect his emotional and sensual detachment, despite his intellectual, ethical and spiritual greatness:
1) He negates at least 99.99999% of humanity in his early Introduction to the Mishna (Mosad Harav Kook edition, 75-83); he claims they exist only to develop the world for the holy genius who appears every generation or two (corresponding to his own experience, that daddy-- and Daddy-- only loves you if you're a genius), who'd also go beserk alone. In Daot 5:2, he views eating as a gross function, which a scholar will not do in the presence of others, and eating anything which you don't need to survive, e.g. kugel and kichels, as wild indulgence.
2) In his youthful (23-30) Commentary to the Mishnah (San. 10, ed. J. Kapach, 145), Rambam urges us to hate and destroy Jews who deny his basic religious principles, removing themselves from the Jewish community, "klal Yisroel"; Truly Grand Rabbi Norman Lamm comments in "Jewish Tradition and the Non-Traditional Jew": "Systems that hold that the acme of Judaism is attained in formulating correct ideas and true notions of God (e.g. Rambam), as opposed to proper conduct, will consider any divergence from such correct opinions to be severe violations of the integrity of the faith. Rationalism is closely linked to dogmatism. Since Maimonides is the supreme rationalist, who holds that metaphysics is beyond halacha, and that the loftiest goal is the forming of correct concepts about the Deity, it is in the area of ideas and theory that the test of faith takes place. It is in that realm, rather than in behavior, that one stands or falls as a Jew". In his comprehensive discussion of Loving and Hating Jews as Halachic Catagories, Rav Lamm notes that Rambam himself mitigates his earlier extreme view in M.T. Mamrim 3:3, where he concludes that one who rejects fundamentals of Jewish belief out of force of habit or defective education isn't considered a heretic, even when he later learns about Judaism; one should try to bring him back only with friendship.
Rav Yehuda Chayoun, a sephardic disciple of Rav Shach, wrote an interesting anthology of halachic and aggadic perspectives on the Messianic Era-- Otzros Acharis Hayamim, now available at TOP in english, "When Moshiach Comes" ($20 postpaid); I urged Targum Press and Feldheim to immediately recall all copies and not to sell them without a corrective label, to avoid a terrible disgrace to God's name and religion and possible violence against the non-observant- on the very first page (21), Chayoun quotes extremist anti-Zionist Rav Chayim of Brisk, Rav J. B. Soloveichik's uncle, that even an unintentional or mistaken nonbeliever in Moshiach Now is called a heretic, and that it's a mitzva to hate and destroy him, per the above Rambam on San. 10!!! He doesn't quote the Rambam's basic limitation to that principle in Mamrim 3:3 (he was unaware of it), leave alone all the contrary sources of Rav Lamm.
Yet this book has unqualified approbations from Israel's leading haredi misnagdic scholars, except Rav Shach; all are called "HaGaon Rav". How could they approve of the above passage? Either none of them read the book, or they read it ignorant of the sources and thought of Harav Hagaon Lamm, Shlita, or, God forbid, they identified with Chayoun's statement. Perhaps an approbation is just general identification with the author, affirmation that he belongs to the "alte bucharim club". So Rav Moshe Feinstein and others approved Amsel's "Judaism and Psychology", unaware that his alternative to Freud, "Cheshbon Hanefesh", a Jewish psychology of the unconscious, was Maskil Rabbi Levin's translation of Ben Franklin into a "mussar sefer".
3) Rambam's original shocking ruling in M.T. Isurei Biah 12:10, wisely censored in the Vilna edition. It's not accepted as halacha and should be rejected by all, just as we demand of other faiths that they repudiate their offensive texts and teachings. Is he expressing unconscious anger there at the mother who "abandoned" him?
4) In M.T. Malachim 8:9, he rules that a captive woman, who won't abandon idolatry after 12 months, is to be executed, as any gentile who does not accept the 7 Laws, when there is strong Jewish authority. He also rules that a woman cannot serve as a judge or witness against them (9:14 ibid).
In M.T. Daot 4:1, Rambam himself claims that one's thought and feelings must be distorted by any illness-- his traumatic childhood, probably beyond complete repair, is an example; cf. the views of his father, son and descendants, e.g. that the ideal is never to marry, at least to marry as late as possible, and to at least have few children-- see Shalshelet Hakabala on the Rambam.
E. From THE HANUKKAH ANTHOLOGY, by Philip Goodman
During the long centuries of suffering and agonizing travail in the dark Diaspora, the Feast of Lights has served as a shining beacon for world Jewry. Year after year the frail Hanukkah candles have diffused spiritual luminescence into dreary homes and brought visions of better days to come. Over half a century ago, the late Justice Louis D. Brandeis predicted the creation of a new era for the Jewish people in these prophetic words: "The Maccabees' victory proved that the Jews-- then already an old people-- possessed the secret of eternal youth: the ability to rejuvenate itself through courage, hope, enthusiasm, devotion, and self-sacrifice of the plain people. This will bring again a Jewish renaissance". Indeed, the modern state of Israel was brought into existence and is being nurtured through the same indomitable spirit of the Maccabees, that kindled a flame of hope in the yearning Jewish heart and mind for the past two millennia. The establishment of Israel, too, was a victory of the few over the many, of democracy over despotism. It, too, was resurrected through the invincible faith and courage of the self-sacrificing modern Maccabees, who gave their lives so that Jews may once again live in freedom.
HANUKKAH AND THE REBIRTH OF ISRAEL-- Yaacov Herzog
Hanukkah comprehends Judaism to mean Jewish independence-- in the physical and political sense-- in that small land on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, where the threefold bond of land, people, and faith was forged for all time. Hanukkah also enshrines the dialogue between Israel and the nations of the world from earliest times. The central theme is of the few against the many, of a people-- its soul kindled by immortal dispensation-- pursuing its distinctive course through the ages against all odds: a people confident in its faith that no mortal force, whether active or passive, whether of oppression or hatred, whether of discrimination or assimilation, could in the final analysis deny it the fulfillment of its spiritual and national destiny, both for itself and in the broader context of human progress....
The Maccabees of old were not only members of the priestly house and, as such, guardians of Judaism; they were also leaders of their people-- generals and statesmen. In summing up political and military prospects, the criteria were the same in ancient times as today. The Maccabees could not have ignored them, and yet they embarked on a revolt against Greek oppression that, in light of what we know today about the balance of forces in those days, must have seemed remote indeed from any chance of success. They acted as they did because failure to act would have meant total physical destruction and spiritual eclipse. But an inner voice told them that if the tragedy of Jewish destiny is a precarious existence on the brink, its triumph is achieved by total commitment to faith, through which peril can be challenged and overcome. In our time, over two thousand years later, the sons of the Maccabees faced a situation that, in poignancy and despair, recalled the circumstances in which their forefathers had likewise found themselves....
But the passage of time had not obliterated the spirit of the Maccabees-- their resolve, their faith, and the message of their experience bridged the gap of time and guided their heirs in the twentieth century. If archeology one day uncovers the political and military estimates of those who sent Greek forces to crush the Hasmonean revolt, we might assume that their analysis of the Jewish prospects would not be far different from the assessments that were prevalent in 1948. Redemption flashed anew, when every mortal assessment would seem to have denied its validity. The few vindicated their cause against the force of the many. As Hanukkah is celebrated throughout Israel today, its true significance and innermost spirit can be grasped for the first time since the festival was initiated thousands of years ago....
The dialogue of a redeemed people with the world has but begun. The testament of the Maccabees will be vindicated. On Hanukkah let us clasp hands in spiritual fraternity and historical involvement. Let us recall the testament of Mattathias, the father of the Maccabees; privileged indeed are we to live in this generation. May we be worthy of the destiny that summons us forward.
One single spark, loyally treasured in but one single Jewish heart, is sufficient for God to set aflame once more the whole spirit of Judaism. And if all the oil, if all the forces that were to have preserved the light of God in Israel, were to be misused for the light of paganism-- even then, one little crucible of oil, one heart which, in a forgotten hidden corner, imprinted with the high priest's seal, has faithfully remained untouched and undefiled, this one crucible is sufficient to become the salvation of the entire sanctuary, when the right time and hour has come. "And even though all countries were bowed in obedience to Antiochus, if every man forsook the land of his fathers and assented to the king's command, even then, I and my sons and brothers will not forsake the laws of our fathers"-- thus spoke the loyal Hasmonean heart of one single hero advanced in years-- and Israel's sanctuary was saved....
And if you, yourself, were the only one who still preserved the spirit of the Maccabees in his home, remember that one single Jew, one single Jewish home is ultimately in itself sufficient to serve as foundation for the reerection of the entire Jewish sanctuary-- from Rav. S. R. Hirsch, translated by Isidor Grunfeld.
F. CHANUKA TODAY
Rav Yisroel Lau attributes the unmatched popularity of Chanuka to modern Jewish identification with the Maccabian fight against assimilation; most non-observant Jews still want their children to be Jewish. Matisyahu is singled out for praise, in an age when most pious oldsters lost their children to the allure of Hellenistic culture-- his stood by him, both in joining his foolhardy revolt and in immediately tending to the Temple, rather than celebrating their military victory. Hillel, who accentuates the postive, adds a candle each night-- we celebrate the increasing spreading of God's holy light on hanuka; Shamai starts with 8 and decreases their number by one each night. He is more concerned with purging evil than spreading good.
Will Our Oil Last ?- Rav Kuzriel Meir
Much has been made of the fact that Chanuka celebrates the recorded struggles of a people-- our people-- for religious liberty. All too little attention is paid to the fact that Hannukkah also celebrates the victory of a people over its own weaknesses. Long before the ruler of the Selucid Empire, Antiochus IV. promulgated his decrees aimed at destroying Judaism and making the religion of our fathers pagan-like, many of our fellow Jews had forsaken the ways of the Torah and embraced the heathen cultures of the Greek Empire. This moral and spiritual corruption had already found its way into the highest and holiest places of their day. Jason, the High Priest, paid Antiochus an exorbitant price for the permission to be High Priest. This price was the introduction of pagan institutions into Jerusalem, to insure that her inhabitants gained the right of freedom of worship and, thereby, attained the rights of a citizen of Antioch. Jason upheld his pledge-- soon "olympic-style" games (with "kosher style" hotdogs?), which were considered forms of worship to certain Greeks, were instituted to replace certain Temple practices. We read of tales of Cohenim appearing naked in the hippodrome near the south-east end of the Temple Mount. These stories are found in our historical records.
The shock was too much for some. The general feeling was that Judaism was a dying faith amongst Judea's population. Some felt that, with a little push, all the Jews would rush to embrace the offer of this new freedom. Antiochus would never had tried to convert the Jewish people had not he been advised by the leaders of Judean Society that the people no longer felt a loyalty to their fathers' traditions. It was an internal struggle between Hellenists and traditionalists that blossomed into an international struggle. The most important element of the struggle was the fact that it was a grass-roots insurrection. Ordinary people struggled against a great and dynamic mega-culture, to maintain their right to follow the faith of their fathers. In this context, we must look at the Rabbis' emphasis upon the single cruse of oil lasting for eight days-- cf. the Greek ban on the 8th day mitzva, circumcision (see The 8th Day at TOP.
We see the miraculous struggle of the small rag-tag guerrilla army in a new light. Perhaps we can also appreciate our struggles in today's world of the Mega-pop-culture. It is only when we look at this aspect of our people's struggle that we begin to understand-- the real aspect of importance in the Hannukkah story is our victory over our individual and collective weaknesses. At the time of Antiochus' decrees, Judaism was split by ideological factions and weakened by political intrigues. Like the small flame of the single jar of oil, it seemed to only have enough strength to last a day. It appeared to have no future. It appeared to be dying. And, what was worse, it seemed that it would be extinguished before there was any hope for its renewal, before a new generation would be raised in its principles and be able to defend it against its enemies. It would take a long time-- eight days-- to prepare the pure oil; The way of the Torah, Heaven forbid, would pass away.
Suddenly a champion arose. The seemingly hollow shell managed not only to survive but conquered its enemies. Today Judaism faces the gravest challenge of its 3000 year existence. We are being asked to join the mainstream of humanity-- not through the old tactics of oppression and murder, but through the power of acceptance and love. Amidst the ideas of universal freedom and brotherly love, it is a hard thing for us to ask a generation of Jews to believe in the ways of our fathers-- the way of Torah-- when the light burns dim in our own lives. Our children no longer understand such values as Judaism places forth, because we fail to place an importance upon them-- we even have failed to truly learn them. The challenge of the Hasmoneans is still with us. Still calling us to remember that repentance is a daily task. And we must constantly purify and rededicate ourselves to the Torah's principles.
G. ADAM, EVE, AND CHANUKA are the subject of Phil Chernofsky's interesting lead article in TT #241, Parshat Vayeshev. Phil quotes the talmud, helpfully also giving the exact source for further study-- A.Z. 8a: When Adam noticed that the days were getting shorter and the nights longer, he feared that he was to blame for the coming destruction of the world. He believed that his disobedience (eating from the tree of knowledge) was being punished by an increase of darkness, which would return the world to the primordial chaos. He declared upon himself an eight day period of prayer and fasting to ask for DFivine forgiveness. When the day started to lengthen, as the sun rose earlier and set later, he realized that this was "the way of the world" and reoiced with an 8 day festival. The Gemera continues that, altho Adam's motives were proper, future generations took upon themselves the winter solstice festival as pagan ritual.... Chanuka, as innovative as it must have been viewed when first instituted by the Sanhedrin (but the prayer Al Hanissim implies that the Hasmoneans themselves instituted it-- YF), actually has its roots dating all the way back to the creation of the world. A Midrash (not cited) says that the "darkness on the face of the abyss" represents Greece and the Light, created on Day One, represents the light of Torah, which dissipates darkness-- so OHR, light, is the 25th word in the Torah (Chanuka begins on Kislev 25, the day the Chashmonim rested-- Chashmona is the 25th place in the desert encampment).
Thus, in a sense, we can view Chanuka as the restoration of Adam's 8 day holiday in honor of God. Kohelet said that "there is nothing new under the sun". Chanuka is the composite realization of various potential elements we find hinted at in the Torah. Phil also expounds the midrashic connection (not cited) between Yaakov's cruse of holy anointing oil at Bet El and Chanuka; he crossed the Yabok to recover it and was rewarded by its subsequent use to anoint the Tabernacle and the kings of Israel and to perform the 8 day Chanuka miracle. Aharon is commanded to eternally light the eternal light (Lev. 24:1-2), right after the main Torah festivals in Lev. 23.
YF: such midrashim should be more appreciated for the ideas they try to convey, than for the questionable correctness of their exegesis-- Rav Y. Hadari has pointed out that Chazal had to get vital messages across to their public when they had their attention, once a week, at the drasha (hence "midrash") on the weekly reading; accepted custom dictated that any idea presented had to be somehow tied to the reading.
H. In ECHOES OF THE SONG OF THE NIGHTINGALE -- The Torah As A Divine Document ($20 from TOP), Rav Leon M. Mozeson opens up his heart and mind to share his lifetime of Torah study and teaching, especially his constant contact with Rav J. Soloveichik, ztz"l. Here's a bit of his Chanuka Torah:
The Talmud (Shabbat 21b) mentions that there were two explanations for the differing views of Hillel and Shammai. One explanation is that Beth Shammai is influenced "kneged yamim hanichnasin" - by the number of days due to come. The first night of Chanuka eight lights are lit because there are eight days of Chanuka scheduled to come; the second night of Chanuka, seven additional days of Chanuka are due to come, and so on, until the last night of Chanuka one light is lit because there is only one day of Hanuka left. Beth Hillel, however, is influenced "kneged yamim hayotzi'in" - by the number of days due to leave. The first night of Chanuka one light is lit, in realization that one day of Chanuka is about to pass upon completion of the day; the second night of Chanuka, two lights are lit in expectation that after twenty-four hours, two days of Chanuka are schedule to leave, and so on, until the last night of Chanuka eight lights are lit and we know that by the next night Chanuka will be gone. What kind of an argument is this, queried the Rav, if we should celebrate Chanuka by the number of days coming or going?!
I turned to the Rav and said that evidently, according to Beth Shammai, the Chashmonoim wanted to renew the Temple rituals, and now that an undefiled cruse of olive oil had been discovered, they believed that by lighting the menorah with it, the menorah would continue to illuminate the Temple until a fresh supply of olive oil could be obtained, in 8 days (Ran). We light eight lights the first night of Chanuka in commemoration of what the Chashmonoim anticipated would happen - that the menorah would remain lit until natural means could be found to keep it lit indefinitely. According to Beth Hillel, however, the Chashmonoim were not that wildly optimistic. As the menorah supernaturally continued to be lit day after day, their wonder and gratitude commensurately grew. Our addition of one light daily reflects the growing wonder of the Chasmonoim as the menorah continued to remain lit, day after day or rather night after night, until eight days had gone by and a fresh supply of olive oil was available. "Correct!" was the one word of approbation that the Rav granted me...
If I remember correctly, the Rav lit his Chanuka menorah after sunset and did not wait for tzais hakochavim (the appearance of the stars in the sky), as the Magen Avraham assumes the view of the Shulchan Aruch 672:1 to be. Rabbi E. M. Block, in his book Ruach Eliyahu, mentions that the Gaon of Vilna would light his menorah after sunset. This, indeed, seems to be the obvious text of the B'raitha in Shabbath 21b, "mitzvotah mishtshka hachama" ("Its mitzvah commences with the setting of the sun"). And this is the view of Maimonides, in Laws of Chanuka 4:5, who states in no uncertain terms: "The candles of Chanuka are not lit before sunset; only at sunset - not earlier and not later!" The Mishne Brura computes the precise time for lighting the Chanuka candles to be about fifteen minutes prior to the emergence of the stars in the sky, which is "the begining of the second sunset."
If I remember correctly, the Rav used the large Sabbath candles for his Chanuka menorah and not olive oil, even though the miracle of Chanuka occurred through the medium of olive oil (please see the chapters on Chanuka). I imagine that the Rav's preference is simply based on the fact that the wax candles burn smoothly and reliably, as the Darkhei Moshe mentions in his comment on Tur, Orach Chaim 673.
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