Chanukah - Lights and Renewal

For What is Chanukah?
The Gemarah in mesechet Shabbat (21B) explains that the name Chanukah comes from the fact that Greeks had defiled the alter and that the Hashmoneams replaced the defiled alter and re-dedicated the new alter for Temple service. We know that names of holidays emulate the qualities of the holiday, and the name Chanukah symbolizes  the essence of the holiday of being about renewal.

However the deeper issue is which miracle was the holiday actually established for. Despite the impressive accomplishments with the military victory, the Gemarah states that Chanukah signifies the miracle of finding the cruze of oil and that it remained lit for 8 days.

The Slonimer Rebbe explains, Chazal doesn't set holidays just based on a miraculous event, or for a remembering a specific event, rather it must have an eternal and lasting quality.

What is the eternal nature of Chanukah?

The Establishment of Chanukah
It says, “On the following year they—our sages—established these days as holy days for singing praise and offering thanks.”

Only when the Chanukah season came around again, did Chazal perceive the nature of the previous year’s events. They sensed that the energies of these miracles were ‘established’—the miracles re-manifested, in a spiritual way, on the same dates of the following year. Upon confirming the fact of the reappearance of this spiritual energy, our sages empowered us also to tap into the miraculous energy of Chanukah that appears each year.

This is the eternal nature of the light of menorah, renewing and illuminating the Jewish soul at this time of year. Chazal established the days of Chanukah based on the miracle surrounding the cruze of oil, that gave power to illuminate generations. That is the power of the holiday of Chanukah, to show Jews that we have a share and connection with the G-d of Israel and His Holy Light.

The Cruel Decrees
The Greeks understood that as long as the Jews felt close to Hakadosh Baruch Hu then they are capable of withstand even great suffering, making the Jews unconquerable. They sought to darken the eyes of the Jews and take away their source of empowerment, issuing decrees to disconnect the Jewish people from Hashem.  Feeling close to Hashem is a source of light and spiritual power for Jews, empowering us to survive all the suffering throughout the Galut.

The Greeks set 3 specific decrees, prohibiting Rosh Chodesh, Shabbat, and Brit Milah.  Why these? These mitzvoth are a light for Am Yisrael, illuminating Jewish souls.  The Milah symbolizes the eternal covenant – Brit – between HaKadosh Baruch Hu and Israel, both at the national level and the spiritual level.  The act of the Brit Mila, cutting off the ‘orlah’, reinforces and strengthens the connection between us and HaKadosh Baruch Hu. The imperfection of the ‘orlah’ obstructs our connection with Hashem, blocking the newborn soul from ultimately being connected to the Jewish people and their destiny.

The penultimate military victory of Israel was further heightened by the super-natural 8 days of light, returning the heavenly light to enhance and illuminate Klal Yisrael.

The Enduring Nature of the Menorah
Israel has faced no limits in the suffering they have endured, with no end in sight. With 8 days of Chanukah lights, the miracle of Chanukah was established in order to brighten the long, dark exile, and brighten the Jewish soul, giving power to endure the entire Galut. The miracle of the light of the Menorah ‘recharges’ from year to year.

The Torah requires us to follow rabbinic enactments. Seven of these are considered the “Sheva Mitzvos d’Rabbanan,” the “Seven Rabbinic Mitzvos.” While we call these the “7 Rabbinic Mitzvos,” that is just because these are the ones for which brachot were instituted for:
  1. Washing the hands for bread.
  2. Eruvim.
  3. Reciting a blessing before partaking of food or any other pleasure.
  4. Lighting Shabbat candles.
  5. Hallel on certain occasions.
  6. Celebration of Purim and Megillah.

The last of the 7 mitzvot d’rabanan to be established was the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles, set  as the last holiday before our long Galut, endowed with all the special powers necessary to enhance and brighten Israel throughout the Galut, until we can enjoy the light of the Moshiach, please soon in our days.

Power of Chanukah
What is the special power of Chanukah? Every Yom Tov offers a Jew spiritual power for the year and as the last instituted holiday, Chanukah brightens Israel every year at this time taking strenght from the original Chanukah light.
As Rashi says in Parshat Beholotechah,
When you light: Why is the portion dealing with the menorah juxtaposed to the portion dealing with the heads of the tribes? For when Aaron saw the dedication [offerings] of the heads of the tribes, he felt distressed over not joining them in this dedication-neither he nor his tribe. So G-d said to him, “By your life, yours is greater than theirs, for you will light and prepare the lamps.” Bamidbar 8:2
The Ramban explains:
Hashem gave Aharon, the honor of kindling the menorah, a mitzvah he very much cherished. The Kohanim had the mitzvah of kindling the menorah every morning. (Rosh Hashana 24b).
But didn’t the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash put an end to this?

No, this mitzvah continued lasting forever through Aharon’s descendants, the Chashmonaim. They instituted the permanent mitzvah of lighting Chanukah lights, making the lighting eternal through our mitzvah of lighting Chanukah menorahs.  So while the actual menorah lighting ended, Chanukah lighting has persisted for generations, illuminating Israel in Heavenly Light throughout the years of this long Galut.

This light is the ultimate antidote to dark situations and the unknown, escorting us through even our darkest days of Galut, as it says in Tehilim: “Of David. The L-rd is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear. The L-rd is the stronghold of my life; from whom shall I be frightened?” (Tehilim 27:1)

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