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RABBI ASHER BRANDER

Miketz- Shabbos Chanukah
28 Kislev 5772 
By: Rabbi Asher Brander,
rabbi@kehilla.org
Dedicated for a Refuah Shleima to Talya Chaya bas Leah and Adina Bracha bas Eliana and Benzion Ben Rachel

 

A Deep Light 

 

A mystical tradition cited by the Rokeach[1] sheds Chanukah light and tantalizes at the same time[2]. First a cryptic gemara: [3]

R. Assi said:Why was Esther compared to the dawn? To tell you that just as the dawn is the end of the whole night, so is the story of Esther the end of all the miracles. But there is Chanukah? We refer to those that may be written down[4].

One wonders why Purim - a hidden miracle, can be expressed while Chanukah - an open miracle, transcends words?

Now the tradition:

כתב הרב הקדוש בעל הרוקח ז״ל: תקנו ל״ו נרות כנגד האור הראשון, ששימש לאדם הראשון ל״ו שעות, כמו שאמרו רז״ל והוא בירושלמי ברכות פרקח׳ הלכה ה׳ - וכתב עוד שבפסוק   ״וירא אלוקים את האור כי טוב״, יש על הט׳ ד׳ תגין, להורות ד ׳פעמים ט׳ היינו רמ זאל ל״ו נרות של חנוכה

Chanukah's thirty six candles [1+2+..+8]connect us to a hidden light that once existed in the world - which Adam used for 36 hours. This is alluded by the four crowned letter tes that appears in the verse And Elokim saw the light that it was Good [tov] - these four crowns are a multiplier on the tes to allude to the 36 candles of Chanukah.

Much has been written of this hidden light With it, Adam was able to see from one end of the world to the other[5]. Alas, after 36 hours, Adam is driven away from Gan Eden and this Gan Eden Light can no longer mesh with this world. It is tucked away for a different stage of reality. Somehow Chanukah reconnects us to this light. We seek to understand the spiritual metaphysics

II. A fascinating Sukkos-Chanukah connection is well known to the scholars. First a famous piece of Talmud that cites the dispute of how we light: Beis Hillel says we count up (1,2, ...8) and Beis Shammai says we count down

Beis Shammai maintains: On the first day eight lights are lit and thereafter they are gradually reduced; but Beis Hillel says: On the first day one is lit and thereafter they are progressively increased. 'Ulla said: In the West [Palestine] two amoraim, R. Jose b. Abin and R. Jose b. Zebida, differ therein: one maintains, The reason of Beis Shammai is that it shall correspond to the days still to come,... but another maintains: Beis Shammai's reason is that it shall correspond to the bullocks of the Festival; whilst Beth Hillel's reason is that we promote in [matters of] sanctity but do not reduce.

One wonders about Beis Shammai's apparent random citation of the descending Sukkos bull count [13, 12,11, ...). Is Judaism only a downer - is there no ascending pattern to draw Chanukah halacha from - what of Omer or Shabbos? Why then does Beis Shammai draw his paradigm from Sukkos?

Now consider this midrash:

"Said the Holy One, Blessed be He: It was your intention to uproot the eight day festival of Sukkot; however I will give them the eight days of Chanukah."

And an apocryphal source:

And they celebrated the eight days in joy as chag ha-sukkot in their remembrance of their troubles before some time on chag ha-sukkot in the mountains and caves as beasts of the field. Therefore, with branches of myrtle and  branches of beauty and date palm branches in their hands, they gave thanks to He who permitted them to succeed in purifying His Temple. And with a consensus they established for the entire Jewish nation to celebrate each year these days. [Macabees, 2:10:6-8

Remarkable. The first Chanukah was commemorated with lulav/esrog as hoda'ah for ability to reconstitute the Mikdash. It is clear that the Sukkos-Chanukah connection need be probed

III. One more point: A Halachic nexus between Sukkos and Chanukah yields an enigmatic contrast.

A sukkah can not exceed 20 amos [~30-40 feet] height[6]. Rabah[7] explains that the pasuk requires us to know that we are sitting in a sukkah[8]. The eye does not naturally focus that high. Ditto for Chanukah. In both cases, there is a notion of publicizing the miracle - it is hard to publicize that which is not naturally seen. And yet a curious dichotomy emerges with regard to the minimum height:

A sukkah may not be lower than 10 tefachim while the ideal placement for the Chanukah menorah is under ten tefachim[9].

The revealed rational basis for this distinction runs as follows. The ideal vision of man is between the 3-10 tefach range - and thus would have been the halacha for the sukkah - save for a Divine override that requires a sukkah to be called a covering and no covering can be less than ten tefachim. And from where is this law derived[10]?

AND IT IS NOT TEN HANDBREADTHS HIGH. Whence do we know this?- It was stated, the ark [of the covenant] was nine handbreadths high, and the ark cover one handbreadth, making a total of ten handbreadths, and it is written, And there I will meet with thee, and I will speak with thee from above the ark-cover; [and it has been taught, R. Jose stated, Neither did the Shechinah1 ever descend to earth, nor did Moses or Elijah ever ascend to Heaven,2 as it is written, 'The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth hath He given to the sons of men' .3 But did not the Shechinah descend to earth? Is it not in fact written, And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai?4 - That was above ten handbreadths [from the summit]. But is it not written, And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives?5 - That will be above ten handbreadths.]

A sukkah needs to cover. No covering is less than 10 ten tefachim[11]. For it constitutes a new domain. An added implication - the Sukkah, (which represents the clouds of glory) can not be less than ten tefachim - for the Divine presence does not rest in directly in this world - the Divine presence also keeps some distance. Which leads us to the bomb question - so then why by Chanukah do we light under ten tefachim

A remarkable answer in Bnei Yisaschar paves the way to reveal a little of Chanukah light

והגך רואה, ידידי... דבריו דברי קבלה מפי אליהו ו״ל, אמר: שהארת המצוה נר חנוכה הוא מהארת אור הגנוז, וכיוןשנקבע לדורות ברוח הקודש הוא מפני שידעו שבכל שנה יתגלה האור ההוא

The illumination of the mitzvah of the Chanukah candles is from the illumination of the hidden light and it was established permanently sinced they knew that every year at this time, this light would be revealed

 

Sukkos and Chanukah intersect. They both reveal the manifest presence of Hashem. The Clouds of Glory that can be seen to all

but you need to reach up to get there - and the Shechina will still be in a different domain. That is the rule.

And Chanukah is the exception to the rule. On Chanukah, the Master of the Universe allows his Hidden Light to permeate the deepest darkest places. On Chanukah, the manifest presence of Hashem happens in the darkest time of the year and in the darkest time of Jewish History and within a nation whose mantra is spiritual darkness. Precisely at that time Hashem comes down and says - kinderlach I can be found even here. I make myself available for you. Even when you think that I have abandoned you:

A friend of mine is diagnosed with a dark situation. He is upbeat and shares with his friends his situation. They want to do something. This one dusts off his tefillin and this one - who has not davened for years opens up the siddur and the other fellows goes to minyan. My friend confides in me - is this not light in the darkness? What else could Hashem want from me?

In the darkness, davka is the hidden light to be revealed. On Chanukah -the little light'ele teaches us that Hashem will always be there for us no matter how far we have strayed - He is there and most accessible davka now.

A final remarkable Bnei Yisaschar comment teaches us that we have not seen anything yet:

, על כן קראו לימים האלה חנוכה, שהוא חינוך והרגל על הגאולה העחידה, שאז יתגלה לנו האור הגנוז בשלימות

They called these days Chanukah - which connoted beginning - for it is the dedication and the accustoming for the future redemption - which shall then have the hidden light be revealed in its entirety.

On Chanukah we get a taste of a light that reminds us that best is yet to come.


A Lichtige Shabbos Chanukah
Asher Brander
 

[1] From the great Chasidei Ashkenaz, Rav Eleazar Rokeach (c. 1176 - 1238),

[2] The basis for this thought appears in several places in the classi work Bnei Yisaschar. Any simplifications or overstatements are mine.

[3] Yoma 29b

[4] The simple meaning here is that Chanukah appears after the closing of the Biblical canon

[5] Chagiga 12a

[6] Shabbos 22a

[7] Sukkah 2a

[8] Vayikra, 23: l'maan yeidu doroseichem ki basukos hoshavti es Bnei yisrael

[9] Shabbos 21b

[10] Sukkah 4b-5a

[11] Cf. Tosafos Asara who derives from here the halacha of the definition of a private domain.


 

 Good Shabbos

Asher Brander             


 
   
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