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  KD MAGAZINE! 
Posted on: December 23, 2005 -
יום שישי, כ"ב בכסלו, תשס"ו
 
 
HAPPY CHANUKAH
Rabbi Yossi Gorodetsky
About the author
Sunday night, December 25, 2005, begins the festival of Chanukah. Chanukah is one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays as it celebrates the Hasmonian defeat of the Macedonian armies, the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of the oil. We, of course, celebrate the holiday by kindling the Chanukah menorah, one additional candle each night. We do nothing to commemorate the victory.

A simple reason for non commemoration is that there have been many instances of small hometown freedom fighters dispelling a much larger imperialist force. We do, however, include a paragraph in the daily prayers and grace after meals thanking G-d for winning the war.

This prayer thanks G-d for putting the "strong in the hands of the weak, impure in the hands of the pure, sinners in the hands of those who occupy in your Torah." The Talmud states that the weak refers to the Torah scholars. Learning Torah takes away one's physical strength.

If the war is not to be considered miraculous, why do we bother even mentioning it during prayers? The war to which we refer in prayer is not against the Macedonians. The prayer states that the sinners were handed into the hands of those who keep your Torah. The Greeks were not sinners, they were just Greeks. Greeks were not "impure". They were Greeks. That prayer refers to the Hellenists, those Jews who tried to assimilate into Greek culture.

The Chanukah story is a battle of spirituality. Greeks vs. Jews is no contest in a spiritual struggle. A Jew that is opposed to Judaism poses a greater threat than that of a non Jew.

"The weak" to which the prayers refer are those scholars that devote their entire lives to the study of Torah. People like Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who spent 13 years in a cave reviewing his studies. It was in the merit of their devotion to Torah study that the Maccabees were successful. The Talmud states that King David was successful in battle only because of the tremendous diligence he displayed in his studies. These were extraordinary people. The Almighty does not expect such devotion from us that we become "weak". We are "those who occupy in your Torah."

The purpose of studying Torah is to be able to know how to perform the mitzvahs. Most mitzvahs require a physical item; Tefillin are made of physical leather, a Shabbos candle is physical wax, etc. Those who go into the world and use the physical to achieve a level of holiness are "fighting G-dís war". We are in the spiritual trenches, fighting the same battle as the Maccabees.

The word Chanukah means rededication. Chanukah is time when we make a spiritual stock taking how far we have come since our last assessment. Our sages say that on Rosh Hashana our fate is written in a book, on Yom Kippur the book is closed. On Succos the book is put on the shelf. The doors of the bookcase are closed on the last day of Chanukah. There is still time left to take advantage of having a happy and sweet year.

I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy and healthy Chanukah.

Read more articles by Rabbi Yossi Gorodetsky

 

 
     
 
 
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