Revach L'Neshama RSS feed for - Section: MOADIM Category:CHANUKAH Copyright 2007, Revach L'Neshama en-US Revach L'Neshama Logo 144 31 Wed, 01 Dec 2021 03:00:00 +0000 240 Finding Our Own Parking Spot - The Miracle of the Eighth Night

If the Nes of Chanuka was that each time they filled the Menorah the oil remained, then why do we celebrate the eighth night, since on the Eighth night the Menorah was filled and the oil didn't remain, as the new oil was set to arrive the next day?

Maybe we can answer with a very real Mashal. Once a fellow was on his way to an important meeting that he had waited months for. Parking in the area was very difficult and since he didn't have much time to spare, he spent the entire trip nervously davening to Hashem to help him find a parking spot right away. As he pulled up in front of the hotel where his meeting was set, another car pulled out of the spot right near the hotel. At that point he looked up to Hashem and said, thanks Hashem but I just found one myself so you don't need to bother.

The first seven nights it was clearly the hand of Hashem that miraculously allowed them to light the Menorah. On the last night they could have been lulled into a false sense of "now we have it under control", when in truth even the last night was all Hashem's doing. On the last night they celebrated "Nissim B'Chol Yom", the Nes that they had oil at all, the Nes that the people who went to bring oil succeeded in their mission, the Nes of every breath we take, and the Nes of every drop of goodness that Hashem blesses us with.

Wed, 24 Dec 2014 03:00:00 +0000
The War Of The Candles

The Bais Yosef famously asks why if there was enough oil for one day do we celebrate the Nes of the Chanuka for eight days since only seven days were a miracle. One of the answers given is that the eighth day is in celebration for the victory in war. But this begs the question why do we celebrate the victory with a an extra light? Another issue that is unclear is what is the essence of the Chanukah miracle, is it the war or the oil? In Al HaNissim we focus on the war but the mitzva of Chanukah is all about the oil, so which is it?

The Nesivos Shalom of Slonim explains that the defilement of the oil by the Yavanim was not incidental to the war, it was the main objective and at the heart of the war on Judaism. Before creation, only the light of Hashem existed. Creation meant Hashem creating a pseudo-darkness, the appearance of space devoid of Hashem's presence. Humanity is tasked with seeing the light of Hashem through the darkness, and Klal Yisroel is meant to lead the way. Since creation Bnei Yisroel's mission has been to inject the light of Hashem into the world. "Yehi Ohr" refers to the light of Hashem.

The Medrash says that the pasuk referring to the earliest stage of the world's existence, "V'Choshech Al Pnei Sihom", darkness upon the abyss, refers to Yavan. Yavan is the nemesis of Bnei Yisroel. Yavan's credo has been to keep the light out. Greek culture worships nature and humanity believing that the created world is the end to itself and all that exists. It believes that we are all G-d and no power above and apart from us rules us. Yavan celebrates to power of man's ability. Life is everything and death is the end. Greek culture is the ultimate darkness.

The Menora is the symbol of the light of Hashem in creation. It is the light that gives life to the Jewish nation. It is light, as Chazal say, that enable us to see from one end of the world to the other, through all the darkness and beyond the distractions. It is this light that the Yevanim so desperately want to extinguish for it reveals the triviality, shallowness, and emptiness of their entire world. To play on a phrase of Chazal we jump and they jump, we jump and soar past the Heavens while they jump and land flat on their face. We earn medals and they earn medals. Our medals gives us a piece of eternity far beyond the boundaries of this transient world while their medals hang on the wall and don't follow them to their grave.

This Chanukah like we did over two thousand years we light our candles in the darkness under the threat of the Yevanim. May we all lighten up our own lives and stand tall and proud, appreciating the beauty of our ways and our tradition, filling up our days and lives with true substance. And just like the Chashmanaim who prevailed despite being outnumbered and overpowered by the forces of evil who stood shoulder to shoulder with the majority of Jews who joined their side, we too will prevail. A little light will cast away the darkest shadow and truth will reign supreme.

Fri, 29 Nov 2013 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Isaac Sher: Did the House of the Chashmonaim Disappear When The Dynasty Ended? The gemara in Bava Basra (3b) says that Hurdus (Herod) a slave to the Chashmonaim massacred the entire Chashmonai family except for one little girl.  This little girl then jumped from the roof and declared as she plunged to her death that as the last remaining member of the clan, whoever in the future claims to be a descendant of the Chashmonaim is really a slave.

Rav Isaac Sher asks, "How could it be that our great heroes who saved the Bais HaMikdash and were Mikadesh Shem Shamayim met the same fate as the wicked kings such as Yeravam and Achav who Hashem swore that he will eradicate their families and their remembrance forever?"

He answers that Yeshaya  told Chizkiya that his children will be "Sarisim" to the King of Bavel.  The gemara in Sanhedrin 93b says that aside from meaning ministers, Sarisim should be taken literally and it means they will be sterile and unable to have children.  These Sarisim were Chanaya, Mishael, and Azarya who were Moser Nefesh to jump into the fire rather than bow to an idol and were saved.  They were sterile and had no heirs.  However the end of the pasuk says "Yad VaShem, Tov MiBanim U'Banos", they will have an every lasting remembrance better than children.  Their heroism will be a story for the ages. Similarly the Chashmonaim have the best remembrance possible. Every year on Chanukah we mention their heroic deeds three times a day in Shmoneh Esrei and every time we say Birchas HaMazon. That is far better than children. The end of the family line does not in anyway affect their eternal reward, stresses Rav Sher.

With regard to the famous Ramban that says that the Chashmonaim were punished for taking the Kingdom from Yehuda, he explains that this is not the reason why their family was cut off, rather it is an explanation why there kingdom had no success.   Although this was a punishment for an aveira they did, Chas V'Shalom to think that these tzaddikim and this heroic family are not sitting in Olam Haba in a special place for all eternity.

Wed, 28 Dec 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg: What Is More Precious Than The Holy Neiros Chanuka?

Have you ever heard Rav Tzvi Mayer Zilberberg talk about the kedusha of Neiros Chanukah? He can go on for hours. Groups and groups of malachim come to hear your bracha. The hidden light inside will strengthen your neshama. It is segula for Torah, tahara , and so much more. After listening to him your entire haldlaka is transformed. Your adrenaline rushes and you feel a sense of kedusha overcome you. You feel like the Kohen in the Bais HaMikdash.

Unfortunately we live in the real world and things aren't so simple. Life is not fantasy land nor is it Gan Eden. As we start our ascent into the stratosphere of Kedushas Hadlakas Ner and get ready to light the menorah some very earthly things may shock us back to reality. Your wife is on the telephone. Your kid is playing. No one prepared the candles. You ran out of wicks and your son was so busy playing cards that he forgot to buy more. On and on goes the list of nightmare scenarios that turn into reality, just as you are about to fill your soul with heavenly light.

Rav Tzvi Mayer, in all his kedusha, reminds us of a very clear gemara in Shabbos 23b that says, "Pshita Li!", it is obvious to me, "Ner Beiso V'Ner Chanukah, Ner Beiso Adif, Mipnei Shalom Bayso", although Ner Chanukah is so important that the Shulchan Aruch paskens (OC671:1) that you must sell the shirt off your back to purchase oil, nevertheless it is so obvious and undebatable that Ner Shabbos comes first, because that is a matter of Shalom Bayis. It is clearly more important to maintain the peace and keep your cool than to bitterly lash out at those who ruined your "moment".

So don't be confused. Although Chanukah is an opportunity that comes around once a year and the Rambam (Chanukah 4:12) uses the rare language that it is a Mitzva "Chaviva Hi Ad Me'od" a dear and precious mitzva, do not forget that all this takes a back seat to shalom bayis (which the Rambam himself mentions two halachos later). So when the people around you try to "steal" your Chanukah from you, just smile and know that Hashem sent you and opportunity even greater than the "precious" and holy mitzva of Ner Chanukah! (See Story "The Flames That Danced All Night In The Wind")

Mon, 26 Dec 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Elyashiv: Am Yisroel Celebrates Peace, Not War The Ran in Masechta Shabbos says that the word Chanuka is a combination of two words, Chanu, they rested from the war and Kuf Hey on the 25th day of Kislev.  Why, asks Rav Elyashiv, do we celebrate the day we rested, shouldn't we celebrate the day we won the war?

The Shalal Rav says that Rav Elyashiv says, we learn from this a lesson regarding war.  The great warriors in history saw war as a means of showing off their awesome power and ruling their conquests.  They celebrate the crushing of their enemies which is their goal in war.  However for some, war is just a means to remove a threat interfering with their real goals in life.  For them victory in war is not an accomplishment, it is what they will achieve afterwards with their new-found peace that is the fruit of their victory.

The Chashmonaim may have been great warriors but only for the sake of Hashem.  They did not enjoy battle.  They enjoyed serving Hashem in the Bais HaMikdash.  They enjoyed dveykus with Hashem through the light of Torah.  All this was not possible with the Yevanim ruling the land through harsh decrees meant to snuff out the light of Torah.

"Binfol Oivecha Al Tismach", do not rejoice in your enemies downfall.  Our victory was achieved not when the Yevanim were defeated on the battlefield, but rather the day we got back to the Bais HaMikdash and cleaned it up and started offering Korbanos once again.  Chanukah is a celebration not of heroic victory, but about the freedom to learn torah and do mitzvos. 

Contrary to popular opinion, most of Am Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel and the rest of the world, live today in a greater state of peace than ever before, since the time of the Churban.  We have freedom to learn torah and do mitzvos without any opposition.  Chanuka is a celebration that our generation should celebrate with unbridled happiness, more so than almost any generation since the days of Yehuda HaMacabi.

Thu, 22 Dec 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Chanukah: Some Hidden Secrets Of The Dreidel The simple story of the Dreidel or Sivivon is that it was a decoy used by the little children learning the Aleph Bais in case the Yivanim caught them.   The Bnei Yisaschar brings some deep remazim regarding the dreidel.

The four sides of the dreidel have the letters, Nun, Gimel, Shin, Hey.  These stand for the four forces in a person.  Nefesh or spirit-Nun, Guf or physicality-Gimel, Sechel or intellect-Shin, and a higher spirit combining the other three, HaKol-Hey.  The four nations of Bavel, Yavan, Rome, and Madai each opposed a specific one of these forces.  Moshiach, whose gematria is 358 the same as Nun, Gimel, Shin, Hey, will annul these forces forever.  Then Hashem's reign will be accepted by all. Hashem Melech, Hashem Malach, Hashem Yimloch L'Olam Va'ed also equals 358 like our dreidel and Moshiach.

The dreidel spins on its point. All these nations on each side of the dreidel all focus on Bnei Yisroel.  The four side gradually decrease and disappear into this point, as the four nations will disappear and become batel to Am Yisroel.

Wed, 21 Dec 2011 03:00:00 +0000
An Answer To The Bais Yosef's Question - A Candle For The War

In Al HaNissim we say "V'Al HaMilchamos". We thank Hashem for the Nissim, the salvation... and for the war. Why do we thank Hashem for the war? For the salvation yes, but for the war itself?

The Bais Yosef asks why do we light candles for eight days, if one jug remained then the miracle was only seven days? One answer given is that the first candle is for the Nes of winning he Milchama. Why do we commemorate the war with a candle? Moreover why is the main Nes of Chanuka considered the miracle of the oil and not the incredible survival and victory of Torah Yiddshkeit?

The reason why we celebrate the Nes of the candles is because it was an open miracle. Any miracle with human involvement is not officially commemorated because people will argue who should get the credit and how much. When a single night's worth of oil lights for eight nights, clearly this is the indisputable hand of Hashem. When a war is won, no matter the odds, man mistakenly can take at least partial credit and share the glory with Hashem.

When we see open miracles the lesson it teaches us is that really everything is a miracle, even things that appear natural. Seven nights of magical oil teaches us that the fact that any oil lights is the hand of Hashem. Just like lighting oil, so too war is waged and won by Hashem alone. Hashem Ish Milchama Hashem Shimo.

The eighth candle of Chanukah represents our maturity over Chanuka. The whole point of Nissim is to help us understand that the whole universe is one big miracle and all controlled by Hashem. When we understand this we also understand that the victory over the mighty Yevanim was all Hashem's doing. This eighth candle is a celebration of Hashem for all the good He does for us, even in war.

Tue, 07 Dec 2010 03:00:00 +0000
The Bais Yosef's Kashya - A Celebration Of Bitachon In The Face Of Victory

The Bais Yosef asks why do we light the Menora eight nights, if they found one jug of oil then only the other seven were a Nes? The Lahavas Dovid answers as follows.

The Chashmana'im won a great battle over the Yevanim. Typically after a victory, no matter how miraculous, there is a tendency to believe that human efforts were the cause of victory, "Kochi V'Otzem Yadi". Especially in this case the Chashmana'im had what to be proud of. Yet it wasn't so. The Chashmana'im attributed there victory to Siyata Dishmaya and took no credit for themselves.

It was this bitachon that prompted them to use the lone tahor pach shemen. They knew that they would eventually need to use shemen that was tamei since they did not enough to last for eight days. Yet they chose to light what they had, and have faith that Hashem will work something out for them, just like He did in the war. It is this bitachon that we celebrate when we light the first night's candle.

Thu, 02 Dec 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Chaim Brisker On Miraculous Oil And Oil From Gan Eden

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik asks how were the Chashmana'im able to light the oil for eight days, the menora must be lit with oil from olives and not oil that came about from a miracle? He answers that we see from here that there was no miracle with regard to an increase in the amount of oil, but rather the very same oil became empowered to light with one eighth of the amount (answering the famous Bais Yosef's question).

The Shalal Rov says that Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin asked on Rav Chaim that the medrash says that the Avnei Shoham and oil for the Menorah was brought from Gan Eden via the clouds. We see from here that super natural oil is kosher for the menorah?

To this Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank answers that the Medrash says the olive leaf brought by the Yonah to Noach, came from Gan Eden. If so we see that there are olive trees in Gan Eden, and it is possible to get fresh squeezed olive oil from Gan Eden. Since it came from an olive tree, it would be kosher, even if it originated from a most exotic locale, and Rav Chaim's question is valid.

Wed, 01 Dec 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kotzker Rebbe - The Miracle Of Chanuka, From Technically Kosher To Clearly Treif The Halacha is that "Tumah Hutra B'Tzibur", when performing an avodah that is for the entire nation, Tumah does not Pasul it. If so why on Chanukah did we need the Nes that the oil should last 8 days. They could have used oil that was Tamei since lighting the Menorah is Avodas Tzibur?

It is said in the name of the Kotzker that while Tumah does not affect the Tzibur under normal circumstances, by Chanukah since this was a new beginning a rededication of the Bais HaMikdash it needed to be perfectly pure without any shred of tumah no matter how kosher it is. This concept is so powerful that Hashem deemed it appropriate to perform a Nes.

This lessen is especially appropriate for Chanukah. The war waged by the Chashmonaim was for the soul of Am Yisroel. While they had sunk to the depths of Chilul Shabbos and no Bris Milah, it didn't start there. It started with very subtle inclusions of Greek culture into the Jewish lifestyle. After years of debate among the different segments of the population whether these minor inclusions were harmful or not, the culture gradually seeped in with devastating results. This is the lesson of Chanukah. Keep the oil pure even if the alternative is technically 100% kosher.  Technically Kosher today leads to clearly Treif tomorrow.

Thu, 17 Dec 2009 03:00:00 +0000
The Story Of Chanukah Part 5: The End Of The Chashmonaim Dynasty Shimon ben Matisyahu was established as Nasi of Yisrael, but purposely did not call himself king.  Hashem had established the royal line from the house of Dovid, and Shimon, as a Kohen stemmed from Levi. 

Shimon’s son, Yochanan Hyrkanus succeeded him after his death.  Yochanan garnered even more power for Eretz Yisrael and expanded its borders.  Unfortunately, he erred by forcing the conquered nations to convert (or flee).

Yochanan died, and was succeeded by his son, Alexander Yannai, who did not follow in the Torah ways of his ancestors and was influenced by the Hellenists.  Alexander named himself king, in defiance of the established custom.  Most of the Chashmonai kings who followed were also Hellenized and corrupt.  The last two Chashmanoi kings, two brothers named Hrykanus and Aristolus, disputed each other over who should be king, and they decided to involve Rome in their dispute.  This was a very sad mistake, with repercussions lasting until this very day.  Rome intervened, took over power in Eretz Yisrael, and stayed there until the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash and our present day exile.

Pompei entered Eretz Yisrael and established Hrykanus as the leader since he was the more passive of the two brothers.  Six years after they entered Eretz Yisrael, the Romans annulled the power of the Sanhedrin.  Hryankus’s advisor, Antipater, who was the real power behind the throne, was a descendant of one of the nations which had been forcibly converted by Yochanan Hrykanus.  Antipater’s son, Hordus completely wiped out the Chashmanoi dynasty, which ruled for only 103 years. The Gemara says that Hordus (who had a hobby of killing people, including his wife and children) killed all the members of the Chashmonaim except for one young girl. (Bava Basra 3b)  The young girl then jumped off a roof.  As she fell to her death, she announced that anyone who professes to be a descendant of Chashmonaim is really a slave.

The Chashmonaim, whose reign began with true Torah heroes, whose success in battle stemmed from their emunah in Hashem, met a very sad end.  The Ramban says that the reason the Chashmonaim were punished so severely was because they ruled over Bnei Yisrael instead of Beis Dovid, which was not their role.

Thu, 17 Dec 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Chaim Kanievsky: Why Is There No Thanks For The Nes Of The Oil in Al HaNissim? In Al HaNissim we thank Hashem for miraculous over the mighty the Greeks.  What seems to go by without any thanks is the great Nes of the oil that lasted for eight days.  Why do we not mention that?

Rav Chaim Kanievsky answers that while we can commemorate the Nes of the oil and make Pirsumei Nisa one of the highlights of Chanuka, we can only thank Hashem for what he has done for us.  Today over 2000 years later we cannot thank Hashem for that miracle.  We would be the same either way.  Similarly on Succos we sit in a Succah so that everyone should know about the great Nes of the Ananei HaKavod in the Midbar, but we don't do anything to thank Hashem for that since we would be the same no matter how our ancestors traveled across the desert.

The victory in the war with the Greeks, however, is something that we have a great debt of gratitude for.  Had the Chashmana'im been defeated, the fate of Jewry would have been in grave danger.  We thank Hashem that Yehadus survived and we are the benefactors two thousand years later.  Chanuka is similar to Pesach where we give non-stop thanks to Hashem for delivering us from the stranglehold of Paroh.  U'L'Amcha Yisroel Asisa Tshua Gedola UFurkan K'Hayon Hazeh!

Wed, 16 Dec 2009 03:00:00 +0000
The Story Of Chanukah Part 4 - Deathbed Confessions, But The Battles Rage On The Beis Hamikdash once again served as a meeting place for the Jews and their Creator, but the battle for independence was far from over.  The nations living around Eretz Yisrael were intimidated by the news of the Jews’ victory and began attacking the Jews living in their lands.  Yehudah came to his brothers’ aid by waging war against these nations including Edom, Amon, Gilad, Acco, Tzor, and Tzidon. 

Antiochus, who had been occupied with other political losses, was informed about the loss of Greek power over the Jews as well. He became depressed and fell ill with a ghastly disease.  Before he died, he confided in his advisors that he regretted persecuting the Jews and looting the Bais Hamikdash.  He felt that the sins he had committed against the Jews were the reason for his downfall.  He died and was succeeded by his young son Antiochus V.

In Yerushalayim, the Jews were not yet at peace.  The Acra fortress near the Beis Hamikdash was occupied by Syrian -Greek soldiers and Hellenist Jews, who constantly tried to attack the Jews and bring the avodah in the Beis Hamikdash to a halt.  Two years after the Chanukah miracle, Yehudah and his army attacked the Acra.  Antiochus V was informed and he sent a huge number of soldiers, horses and elephants to aid his soldiers.

A fierce battle ensued in which Yehudah’s brother, Elazer, was crushed to death by an elephant.  The Syrian-Greek army enforced a siege on Yerushalayim, and within a short period of time (it was a Shemitta year) famine began to affect the city.  However, the Jews in Yerushalayim were saved from hunger by internal Greek politics.  While Antiochus V was away from his throne, an imposter attempted to take over as king.  The king and his advisors lifted the siege in order to return to Antioch and eliminate the imposter.  They quickly arranged a truce and left Yerushalayim.  

Shortly later, the brother of Antiochus IV, who had been held hostage in Rome until then, escaped and reappeared in Syria.  He garnered power, established himself as leader, and had Antiochus V executed.  The truce between Yehudah and Antiochus was now no longer valid.  The Hellenists seized the opportunity created by the transition of power to forge an alliance with the new leader and conspire with him against Yehudah. The Hellenist attacked the Jews in Yerushalayim and had many of them executed.  They began persecuting the Torah Jews with even more vehemence than the Syrians.  Yehudah was forced to wage war once again, and under impossible conditions of the few against the many, the Jew were again victorious.  A few months later, the Greeks and the Hellenists attacked again, and Yehudah was killed in battle.  His brother Yonason became the new leader. After several more battles, a peace treaty was finally signed between Syria and the Jews in Yerushalayim.

Yonason led Eretz Yisrael over the next several years, and was able to gain further power and prestige for the Jewish people fueled by political turmoil and change among the Syrians.  The expanded borders and power of Judea was too tempting for one official, Triphon, who was the real power behind the throne of Antiochus VI, who was then too young to rule.  He hoped to take over Judea and went to battle against Yonason .  When Triphon realized he could not win over the Jewish army, he tricked Yonason into coming to him to sign a peace treaty and then took him as hostage and had him executed.

The last surviving brother, Shimon then led a successful battle against Triphon, and Eretz Yisrael finally won its hard-earned independence.  The Acra fortress was finally defeated as well.  Shimon was recognized as Kohen Gadol and Nasi of Yisrael.

Wed, 16 Dec 2009 03:00:00 +0000
The Story Of Chanukah Part 3: They Won The "Real" War But The Battles Continued During these horrible days of persecution, Matisyahu Hachashmanoi left Yerushalayim, which was now controlled by the Yavanim and Hellenists, and settled in Modiin, a town outside Yerushalayim.  The town did not prove to be a haven however; the long arm of Antiochus reached even there.  The king’s soldiers appeared and ordered the Jews to offer a pig to the Greek gods.  Matisyahu refused to comply, but a Hellenist Jew prepared to follow the soldiers’ orders.  Matisyahu became enraged with fury for Hashem’s honor and killed the Jews and the soldiers.  He called out his famous battle cry of “Mi LeHashem Eilai!” and he, his five sons, and followers escaped to the hills of Midbar Yehudah.  There, they dwelled in caves and formed an army led by Matisyahu’s oldest son, Yehudah.  Yehudah was dubbed Macabee, which means hammer, and also stands for, ‘Mi chamocha bealim Hashem.”  The Maccabim were a small guerilla army (12,000 or less men) courageously prepared to engage the Syrian-Greek army (40,000 men) in battle.  The Syrian-Greek army not only vastly outnumbered the Maccabim, but was also equipped with professional arms and elephants, the tanks of yesteryear. 

The Maccabim began attacking towns which were controlled by the Yavanim, and the king’s army reciprocated.   The Maccabim, under the leadership of Yehudah, successfully fought off the king’s large army time after time, killing thousands of soldiers during the battles.  These battles took place over a period of more than two decades, before a final peace treaty was signed with the Greeks, and the Jews were completely independent.  However, the Chanukah Nes and the rededication of the Beis Hamikdash occurred three years into the fighting, after a particularly fierce battle in which the Maccabim ravaged the enemy army.  The Yavanim later regrouped themselves and continued the war.  The Chanukah nes was a celebration of a victory of ruchniyus; it did not indicate a military victory which occurred over two decades later.  

The Maccabim were able to return to Yerushalayim after three years of fighting.  They marched directly to Har Habayis where a dismal sight met their eyes. The Beis Hamikdash lay in ruins, desolate and neglected.  They sadly tore their clothing and mourned the desecration of the Beis Hamikdash.  The Kohanim then cleaned the Bais Hamikdash and removed the idols.   They forged new keilim, including a mizbeach to offer korbanos the next morning.  They brought ketores that very afternoon. They constructed a temporary menorah out of iron skewers and plated it with zinc.  They looked for oil to light the menorah, but all the oil they found in the Beis Hamikdash had been contaminated.  They continued searching and they eventually found a small flask containing enough oil for one night, with the unbroken seal of the Kohen Gadol.  The seal in itself was miraculous since it was not standard practice that the flasks were sealed, and the Kohen Gadol was not usually involved in the production of the oil.  The Kohanim lit the menorah using this flask of oil and the oil burned miraculously for eight days, after which fresh oil had been produced and brought to the Beis Hamikdash. 

The next day, the twenty fifth of Kislev, the Korban Tamid was brought.  Bnei Yisrael celebrated the rededication of the Beis Hamikdash for eight days amidst great joy and song.  The next year, the Sanhedrin realized that the spiritual implication of the Chanukah nes was eternal, and they declared that Chanukah should be celebrated for eight days every year.

Tue, 15 Dec 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Maoz Tzur - The Roses Behind The Jug Of Oil "V'Nakeh Lo Yinakeh", and acquit Hashem does not acquit (Ki Sisa 34:7).  This pasuk is the source of the Midas HaDin and all the troubles that seem to befall us in life.  The Gaon HaKadosh MiKozhnitz tells us that if you take the words V'Nakeh and Yinakeh, and remove the letters Kuf and Nun from each of these words, the remaining letters are the Shem HaShem.

This is the meaning of the mishna in Pirkei Avos (4:27), "Al Tistakel B'KanKan Eleh B'Ma SheYesh Bo", don't look at the jug, only what is in it.  Kan and Kan are the exterior of our Tzaros.  We tend to focus on our pain rather than the underlying issue.  The Mishna tells us when we are in a situation of Nakeh Lo Yinakeh, we should not focus on the facade which is the Kuf Nun Kuf Nun, but rather the remaining letters of Hashem.  We must realize that within this ordeal, Hashem is close to us and holding our hand.  Everything is directed by Hashem for a good reason and we should use it to get close to Him.

Rav Yehuda Asad says that this is what we say in Maoz Tzur, "UMiNosar Kankanim Naaseh Nes LaShoshanim".  From the Shem Hashem that stood behind the wars and the tzaros of Antiochus, which were merely empty jugs testing our resolve, Naaseh Nes LaShoshanim, a great miracle occurred for those who passed the test and came out smelling like roses.

Mon, 14 Dec 2009 03:00:00 +0000
The Story Of Chanukah Part 2: From Alexander To Antiochus - Lots Of Politics, Terrible Oppression Alexander the Great died at the prime of his life, and his kingdom was divided among four kings, who promptly began vying each other for power.  Eretz Yisrael was caught in the middle of the struggle between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kings, and was eventually conquered by the Ptolemaic kingdom.  It was during the reign of Ptolemy II that seventy chachamim were forced to translate the Torah into Greek. 

In 199 B.C.E., Antiochus III the Great, a Seleucid, conquered the Ptolemaists and began ruling over Eretz Yisrael. Eretz Yisrael was now part of the Seleucid kingdom, which ruled Syria. After his death, his son Seleucus IV succeeded him, and during his reign, the struggle between the Hellenist and the Torah faithful Jews was heightened.  This struggle reached its final height during the reign of his son, Antiochus IV.

When Shimon Hatzaddik died, his student Antigonas succeeded him as head of the Sanhedrin.  Two of Antigonas’ students, Zadok and Boesus, began a new branch of “Yiddishkeit” which denied the validity of the Torah Shel Baal Peh, emunas chachamim and the existence of Olam Haba.  These Jews became known as the Tzidukim and the Torah faithful Jews were called Pharisees.  The Tzidukim were natural allies of the Hellenists.

When Antiochus IV became king, the Hellenists offered him bribes for the position of Kohen Gadol.  The position of Kohen Gadol became a political position, often given to the most corrupt individual.  The Hellenists built a gymnasium near the Beis Hamikdash; a site of immorality and even avodah zara.  Hellenist leaders, after bribing Antiochus IV for power, oppressed their fellow Jews, and even murdered them in their struggle for power. When murmurs of rebellion were heard among the Torah Jews in Yerushalayim, a full civil war erupted, which prompted Antiochus to step in to ascertain his power over the Jews.  Antiochus attacked Yerushalayim and forty thousand Jews were killed, and another forty thousand were taken captive.  Antiochus then entered the Beis Hamikdash and looted the keilim, the mizbeach, the Menorah, the shulchan for the lechem hapanim, and the paroches. 

Antiochus did not satisfy himself with physically ravaging Bnei Yisrael, and he began a campaign of spiritual oppression as well.  He forbade the Jews to continue offering their korbanos in the Beis Hamikdash, and forced them to sacrifice pigs instead. Antiochus banned the observance of Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, the Yamim Tovim, kashrus, bris mila, taharas hamishpacha, and limud Torah.  Pagan gods were set up in the Beis Hamikdash.

Antiochus brutally enforced his new laws.  Sifrei Torah were burned at the stake and chachamim were murdered.  Jews are forced to eat pork and worship Greek gods.   Babies discovered with a bris mila were murdered along with their mothers in a brutal fashion. It is during this time that Chana and her seven sons submitted themselves to torturous deaths rather than desecrate Hashem’s name.

Mon, 14 Dec 2009 03:00:00 +0000
The Story Of Chanukah Part 1 - Greek Culture Seeps Into Eretz Yisroel Sefer Ezra describes the dedication of the second Beis Hamikdash in the sixth year of the reign of King Daryavesh, the king of Paras.  The small portion of Bnei Yisrael who had heeded Ezra’s call to return to Eretz Yisrael celebrated the dedication of the second Beis Hamikdash with great joy amidst tears.  The tears were shed by those who had witnessed the first Beis Hamikdash in all its glory.  The second Beis Hamikdash was not comparable, physically or spiritually, to the first Beis Hamikdash, which had been built through open miracles.   The era of the second Bais Hamikdash was also not comparable to that of the first Beis Hamikdash.  Nevuah was lost, and the position of Kohen Gadol became a political tool which was handed out to those with the most money and influence.

Shortly after the dedication of the second Beis Hamikdash, the era of Persian rule ended, as Alexander the Great, swiftly rises to great power, and sweeps in the era of Greek domination of the world.  Alexander easily conquers Eretz Yisrael, which is comprised of a weak, newly-formed community.  The era of the third galus of Bnei Yisrael, under the domination of the Yavanim, commences.   Alexander is magnanimous to Eretz Yisrael and the Beis Hamikdash, thanks to a miraculous encounter with Shimon Hatzaddik.

Shimon Hatzaddik was the Kohen Gadol and the last member of the Anshei Knesses Gedolah.  As Alexander and his army approached Yerushalayim on their way to its conquest, Shimon Hatzaddik and the other elders went out to greet him, fearing that Alexander will destroy the city and the Beis Hamikdash.  When Alexander the Great, the conqueror of the entire civilized world, catches a glimpse of Shimon Hatzaddik, he immediately bows down before him.  He explained to his men, who were amazed at his uncharacteristic behavior, that he had seen a vision of Shimon Hatzaddik before each of his victorious battles.  Alexander was sure that his victories were in the merit of this esteemed leader of the Jews, and his subsequent behavior towards them and the Beis Hamikdash reflected his appreciation and awe.

Along with Greek military and political domination, came the domination of Greek culture, and Hellenism began infiltrating the world, and even Eretz Yisrael.  Greek culture glorified the arts and beauty.  The human body was considered the ultimate in physical beauty, and its perfection was rewarded in the Olympics, a Greek invention.  The concept of modesty was not part of the Greek vocabulary, and in fact, the word gymnasium stems from the Greek words which means naked.  The Greek religion, or Greek gods, was secondary to the power and idolizing of the human being.  These ideals were foreign to the Jewish nation, but nevertheless began making insidious inroads into the previously pure Torah values of Bnei Yisrael.  The spiritual decline begins after the death of Shimon Hatzaddik, who in his lifetime was a source of spiritual strength to Bnei Yisrael.

Sun, 13 Dec 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Mincha on Erev Shabbos Chanukah - Before or After Lighting the Menora?

The Mishna Brura (OC 679:2) brings from the acharonim that you should daven mincha before lighting the Menora on Erev Shabbos. The Pri Migadim says the reason for davening first is that once you light the Menorah it is like the next day since it is already after Plag HaMincha.

Most of the world does not do this. Why not? The Piskei Tsuvos says this is either because time does not allow it or because it is hard to organize a Minyan. He quotes the Siddur HaShelah that says to light first and then daven Mincha BiTzibur. From this he deduces that it is better to light before Mincha than to daven without a minyan before lighting the menora.

Disclaimer: We try to convey the Tshuva to the best of our ability. We admit that our understanding may not be accurate. Please also understand that this Tshuva may not be the final word on this topic. One should consult a Rav before drawing any conclusions.

Fri, 11 Dec 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Avrohom Yaffen: The Problem With Celebrating Victory In War The miracle of the menora?  Was that the most important thing that happened Chanuka?  We won a war against a world power.  We restored the Bais HaMikdash which had been pillaged and ravaged.  Why don't we put more emphasis on these critical achievements instead of the miracle of the oil?

The Shalal Rav brings from Rav Avrohom Yaffen, the Rosh Yeshiva of Bais Yosef Novhardok, that there is a problem with celebrating victory in war.  As much as we know it was a miracle for the a small band of tzadikim to overcome a world power, nevertheless this is rooted in Teva, nature.  Tales of strength too easily emerge from the battlefield, where no eyewitness can see the whole picture.  Revisions in history easily creep in over the generations.  Even the most saintly can, to a degree, allow some logic to obscure the hand of Hashem.

We don't want to celebrate Hashem's help in our victory.  We want to celebrate the unaided and indisputable hand of Hashem.  No arms, no bravery, no ingenious battle plan.  Oil that lasts eight days can only come from one place, our father and our savior, Hashem.

Mon, 29 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
The Power of Zos Chanuka

The seforim bring that the eighth day of Chanuka, known as Zos Chanuka, named after the Krias HaTorah of that day, is a very significant day. There are four periods of teshuva that are tied in with Rosh HaShana, three of which are very well known, Zos Chanuka is the fourth. The “Yimei Harachamim” begin with the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Chodesh Elul, calling to each of us to begin our teshuva process. The Gemara tells us that on Rosh Hashana, the tzadikim gemurim, completely righteous individuals, are immediately signed and sealed for a good year. This is the first period of judgment. Ten days later, on Yom Kippur, marks the second period of judgment, one that applies for most of us and after the completely righteous. For the stragglers, the grace period is extended and a third period of judgment culminates on Shmini Atzeres. Then, much after the others, comes the fourth period – Zos Chanuka. 

These the respective periods of teshuva, works out to 30 days, 40 days, 52 days and 122 days from Rosh Chodesh Ellul. These four periods are hinted to in the amount of pasukim in the last few parshiyos of the Torah. The 40-day period, reserved for the majority of us, is hinted to in Parshas Netzavim, which has a total of 40 pasukim and speaks about how all of Klal Yisroel stands before Hashem in judgment. The 30-day period, reserved for tzadikim, is hinted to in the number of pasukim in Parshas Vayeilech, which begins with how the tzadik Moshe spent his final days inspiring the yidden to teshuva. The 52-day period is hinted to in Parshas Ha’azinu, as Moshe continues his message of teshuva. Finally, our fourth period, the 122-day program, culminating with Zos Chanuka, is hinted to in the amount of pasukim in Parshas Ki Savo, as a baal teshuva finishes their return to a new destination as a new person.

Mon, 29 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Antiochus Kills Channah's Seven Sons Antiochus had established his cruel decrees of religious persecution, and prepared to leave Yerushalayim to return to his throne.  He appointed his official, Phillip, as the governor of Judea, and ordered him to harshly enforce his decrees.  Phillip promptly arrested Elazer Hakohen, an elderly chacham, and ordered him to eat pig meat which was offered as a sacrifice to Antiochus.  The governor was eager to have his orders obeyed by Elazer to set an example to the rest of the Jews.  He even told Elazer that he would secretly exchange the pig for kosher meat, and he would only have to appear as if he was eating pig meat.  Elazer Hakohen refused and was put to death.

Phillip then arrested a woman, Chanah, and her seven sons.  Antiochus, who had been on his way back to the capital, returned to Yerushalayim to enforce his decrees on this family.  Chanah’s oldest son was ordered to appear before Antiochus.  Antiochus spoke to the boy at length and tried to convince him to comply with the decrees and abandon the Torah.  The son scoffed at Antiochus’ arguments, and expressed his readiness to die for the sake of Hashem and His Torah. Antiochus became enraged, and he ordered his servant to sever the boy’s limbs and tongue and place them on a frying pan on the fire.  The boy was then tortured and placed on the pan alive, which was removed from the fire to cause a slower and more agonizing death.  His family was forced to witness this horrible sight.

The next brother was then brought before the king.  The king’s advisors and servants begged him to obey the king to avoid the great suffering his brother had endured.  The boy answered that he was also ready to show his devotion to Hashem, and they should not leave out anything they did to his brother.  He was then killed in the same ghastly way.  Each brother then followed suit, and was tortured to death.

The seventh and youngest brother, who was only seven years old, was then brought.  Antiochus was determined to win over at least this child.  Antiochus begged him to obey his orders, and promised him to appoint him as his viceroy, who will rule over his entire kingdom.  He promised him wealth and possessions.  The boy contemptuously rejected his offer.  Antiochus offered to throw down his ring and the boy will bend down to pick it up, at least giving the appearance of obeying the king.  The boy refused. 

Antiochus then sent for Chanah, and begged her to pity her child and convince him to obey his orders.  He promised her that she will then be allowed to live and remain with at least one surviving child.  Chanah took her son aside, and implored him to follow in the ways of his brothers and sacrifice himself for the sake of Hashem’s Torah.  When the boy returned to Antiochus and again refused to comply with this wishes, Antiochus became filled with fury and ordered that this boy be killed even more cruelly than his brothers.  As they took the child to be killed, his mother said to him, “My children, go and tell your ancestor Avraham, ‘You bound only one son on an altar, but I bound seven.’”

Chanah then stood over the bodies of her sons, and davened.  As she finished davening, she threw herself off the roof and fell to her death. 

Mon, 29 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Chanuka: Should You Change Your Wicks Each Night? The Shulchan Aruch says (OC 673:4) that we keep the old wicks in the menora until they are no longer usable and do not change them for new ones each night.  The Levush says that you should not change them because older ones light better.  The Likutei Chaver Ben Chaim also says that you should use the old ones, even though they changed it daily in the Bais HaMikdash.  The reason is because in the Bais HaMikdash they purposely wanted to show that the menora was not meant to give off light so they didn't want the older more effective wicks.  However for our menora we want more light for Pirsumei Nisa so the older ones are more desirable.

The Minhag Yisroel Torah brings that we have a Minhag to change the wicks each night because each night was a new Nes.  Also we change wicks because it is a Zecher for the menora in the Bais HaMikdash, where they changed wicks each night.  He brings a third reason from Mishmeres Shalom.  He says we should change the wicks because the Rema says that the newest Ner that you light each night is more Chashuv than the others, because the first Ner is all you really need for the mitzva.  If so, then by leaving the wick in its place, the next night you would light it as the second Ner and lower its Kedusha, which we never do.  Therefore rather than keep moving the wick around from night to night in order to keep the latest one in the first position, we just replace them every night.

Sun, 28 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Yehudis Saves Yerushalayim One of the cruel decrees during the Syrian-Greek rule was that every Jewish kallah was required to submit herself to a Syrian-Greek officer before her marriage.  Special officers in each town were appointed for this purpose.  The Jewish people refused to submit to this outrageous decree, and married secretly or delayed marriage in the hope of better times.   

Mattisyahu’s daughter was engaged, and shortly before the wedding, the officer appeared to enforce the decree.  Mattisyahu and his sons battled the officer and his soldiers, and miraculously defeated them.  The king was informed and sent his general to besiege Yerushalayim with a huge army.  In due time, the Jews inside the city began suffering from hunger and thirst; surrender seemed imminent.  A beautiful and righteous almanah, Yehudis (some sources say that Yehudis was actually the daughter of Mattisyahu) took the initiative to intervene to save her people from surrendering to the notoriously cruel general.

Yehudis dressed herself in her finest clothes, adorned herself, and left the city together with her maidservant, who carried a basket with food and aged wine.  They reached the enemy camp, and informed the guards that they had a vital and secret message to convey to the general.  The guards allowed them to enter the general’s tent, where the general eyed the beautiful Yehudis with interest.  Yehudis told the general that she had come to him because the conditions in the city were extremely difficult, and the Jews were becoming desperate.  She wished to save her people from the general’s anger at their stubbornness, and she was willing to tell him the best way to defeat the city quickly.  She told the general that she had heard of his valiant and brave war career, and she wished to get to know him better.  

The general was entranced by Yehudis, and accepted her offer to share a meal of bread and cheese.  Yehudis then offered him strong wine to quench his thirst.  The general drank liberally and quickly became completely intoxicated.

When the general was in a deep drunken slumber, Yehudis quickly uttered a tefillah for success, and withdrew the general’s sword from his sheath, and bore down on his neck.  She cut off his head, wrapped it in cloths, and concealed it in the basket.  Yehudis and the maidservant then quickly returned to the city where they immediately went to the Jewish commander.  Yehudis showed him the evidence of what she had done and advised him to prepare his army to attack the enemy early in the morning.  The enemy, who was not expecting the attack, turned to their general for direction, and panicked when they found him dead.  In this confused and frightened state, they fled from the Jewish army.  It was a miraculous victory wrought by a brave and righteous woman.

Sun, 28 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Is It Permissible to Play Dreidel For Money? It is forbidden to be a "Misachek BiKubiya", one who plays an ancient game for money.  There are two problems with this activity.  First because when you win money it can be considered stealing from the one who lost.  Second you are not involved in "Yishuv HaOlam", bettering the world, only wasting your time.  The second problem we can dismiss right away because it only applies to those who do this daily instead of working, and not occasionally as a means of relaxation.

Rav Yisroel Dovid Harfenes in his sefer on Chanukah, Mikadesh Yisroel Siman 3 discusses the various issues.  With regard to "Gezel", stealing, the Halacha is "Asmachta Lo Kanya."  If a person enters a bet because he is sure he will win, he never had any intention of giving you his money.  Therefore if he loses and you take his money you are a thief!  However, says the Mekadeish Yisroel, in games that he outcome is purely dependent on chance and does not involve any skill, when you agree to play you know can lose and therefore agree to pay the money.  (The Mogen Avrohom says that even in this case while this is not Gezel it is Srach Gezel a hint of Gezel).  

There still can be a problem of stealing though.  When you lose the game you don't really want to pay.  Since a "kinyan", legal transaction was not made, you are not obligated to pay.  If you pay out of embarrassment then the money the winner receives is considered stolen money.  On the other hand according to the Rema since the winner is not taking the money from you, rather he taking it off the table that all players placed it on before the game it may be permissible.  There is also the issue of paying up to keep your word but that may not apply here since you didn't specify an amount you are giving.

This is a complicated Choshen Mishpat Sheila.  We only write this to help stretch the mind and show how careful one must be in every monay transfer. 

The Chochmas Adam dismisses this question and says that we play dreidel not to earn money but rather to be Mikayem a minhag Yisroel and therefore the whole question is not relevant.

 Disclaimer: We try to convey the Tshuva to the best of our ability. We admit that our understanding may not be accurate. Please also understand that this Tshuva may not be the final word on this topic. One should consult a Rav before drawing any conclusions.

Wed, 24 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Chanukah: Answer To The Bais Yosef's Question - Hashem Is The Eighth Candle The Holocaust was one of the darkest periods in Jewish history.  Atrocities, on a such grand scale that were previously unfathomable, ravaged the Chosen Nation.  Where was Hashem in all this?  The Satmar Rov, when asked by someone to give him a Bracha said, don't ask me, ask someone with numbers tattooed in his arm who still believes in Hashem.  Someone who found  Hashem in their darkest hour is worthy to give a bracha.   The Satmar Rov himself and hundreds of thousands of other survivors and victims alike saw Hashem very clearly.  They saw awesome occurrences of hashgacha pratis and incredible miracles.  They saw the compassion of Hashem in a time of terrible Hester Panim, as Hashem for whatever reason hid from his beloved children, yet at the same time suffered with them.

True, says the Chasam Sofer, the first 7 nights of Chanuka were shining examples of how Hashem can change nature for His beloved nation.  Yet the eighth candle was a miracle of equal proportion.  It was the miracle of Teva, nature.  The eighth night is a miracle only for those looking for Hashem.  They will find Him in the flickering flame.  They will understand that it is Hashem who makes oil burn.  They will understand that making the oil remain or disappear makes no difference to Hashem whatsoever.

This is the Nes of the eighth and final night.  It is the miracle that we will carry with us for the entire year.  It is through this flame that we will know that all the mundane happenstances are not mundane at all.  It is part of His master plan, every stubbed toe, every disappointment, and every drop of success and simcha as well.  It is this dim light that will keep us warm in the darkness of what is left of our long Galus.  When all others see only the black, we will see the light.  Hashem can hide but he is still very much there in the flickering flame for all those who care to look. 

Wed, 24 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Tells Us The Secret Behind Chanukah's Jelly Doughnuts

Jelly Donuts or "Sufganiyot" are customarily eaten on Chanukah.  Why?  Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach says the gemara (Avodah Zara 52b) says that when the Chashmonaim were victorious they entered the Bais HaMikdash and cleaned it up and purified it from the Tumah.  However they had no viable solution to salvage the stones of the Mizbei'ach and had to bury them. 

After eating Donuts we make an "Al HaMichya" where when we ask Hashem to rebuild Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash we specifically ask for rachamim "Al Mizabachacha" on the Mizbei'ach unlike Birchas HaMazon where we don't find specific mention of the Mizbei'ach.

What about the Jelly?  The gemara in Sotah says that since the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed the taste of fruits have never been the same.  Fruit is associated with the Mizbei'ach.  Therefore we add fruit jelly to our donuts.  (Shalmei Moed)

Wed, 24 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Big War Or Small Light - It Depends Who You Talk To When the gemara (Shabbos 21a) speaks of the Nes of Chanuka, it tells about the Nes of the oil and does not mention the victory on the battlefield.  In Al HaNisim we give long mention to the miraculous victory of the mighty Greek army but we do not mention anything about the Nes of the oil.  Why?

The Shalal Rov brings from Rav Boruch HaLevi Epstein (author of the Torah Temima) in his sefer Boruch SheAmar, that these two accounts were told to different audiences. The gemara says "Tanu Rabanan".  It was the account taught to the Talmidei Chachomim in the Bais Medrash.  Al HaNisim on the other hand is said by the Hamon Am, all Yidden, learned and unlearned alike.

To a Talmid Chochom victory in war is clearly in the hand of Hashem who favors the underdog, Elokim Yivakesh Es HaNirdaf".  Furthermore we understand that Hashem fights the war and military might is a non-factor in determining the outcome.  What impresses the talmid chochom is the Kirva and closeness that Hashem showed us with the Nes of the Menorah.  A talmid chochom understands the connection between oil and chochmas hatorah and it inspires him to new heights in his learning.  Therefore the gemara focuses on the oil when addressing this group.

A simple layman does not fathom what this Kirva to Hashem means, nor does he know what to do with it, nor does he understand the depths of chochmas hatorah.  He relates better to a dramatic battle with a shocking outcome.  He too must thank Hashem on his own level.  In Al HaNisim we give him the chance.

Let us all rise to the level of talmidei chachomim this Chanuka and raise our level of Torah learning.  This year let us not sit on the outside.  Let's get the inside scoop of these special holy days!

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Chanukah: Answer To The Bais Yosef's Question - You Are The Eighth Candle The Bais Yosef answers his own famous question as to why we celebrate eight nights if there was one jug for enough oil for the first night, by saying that on the first night the jug remained full even after pouring it out into the menorah.  In that case, the Nes of the eighth night would need to be explained, since they were able to empty its contents knowing that the new oil would arrive the next day.

I asked a passenger in my car this morning if he has a good answer and after giving it some thought he said, "we are the eighth candle".  After hearing his words reverberate in my mind, I thought maybe we can explain as follows. 

Chanuka was the last official Yom Tov that Chazal made.  Since Chanuka we have not established any new Yomim Tovim.  Rav Tzvi Mayer Zilberberg brings from the Sfas Emes says that the light we absorb from the Chanuka candles sustains us through the Galus until the light of Moshiach shines so bright.

The purpose of lighting candles is Pirsumei Nisa, we want to publicize the Nes.  Our existence in this long and bitter galus is truly miraculous.  In one way or another, we have been subject to oppression and attempts to exterminate us from just about every single nation that has ruled the land.  Yet like oil, even if you pour water on it, it does not disappear, it floats to the top.  After every oppression we float right back to the top.  Just like the light of the menorah, in Galus we are not a torch which shines bright.  We are the little flame from a a single wick. We bounce around in the wind giving off little light but we stay lit.

While the candles publicize the nes that happened many years ago, it is we who stand here over two thousand years later who are the greatest testament to the Nes of Chanuka.  Jews still exist among the wolves that have all taken their turns at tearing us to shreds.  Thriving yeshivos still echo the sounds of the Torah of old.  We have survived!

"We are the eighth candle."  On Leil Shmini (as in Shemen) we are the light that refuses to die.  We are a truly miraculous light.  A light that will remain steadfast for another year.  B'Ezras Hashem it will be a year in which our light will finally shine bright as we are engulfed in the brilliant light of Moshiach.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Chanukah: Answer To The Bais Yosef's Question - Because Eight Is Torah If the found one jug of oil which lasted 8 days wasn't the miracle only for seven days?  This is the famous Chanuka question of the Bais Yosef.  There are many answers given like, one day is celebration for the victory, or for finding the jug itself.

Maybe we can offer as follows.  Rav Dovid of Kotzk the son of the Kotzker Rebbe says that the Nes we celebrate on Chanuka is that we were saved from "L'Hashkicham Torasecha", the enemy tried to make us forget the Torah.  To a great degree they were successful and aside for the small group of Chashmonaim, who miraculously overcame a powerful enemy, most of the nation was already lost to the trappings of the Greek ideology. On Chanuka, thanks to the mesiras nefesh for torah of the Macabim, our nation was to a great degree restored to its senses.

The Maharal MiPrague says that Teva or nature is governed by the number seven.  Hashem created the natural world in seven days.  Torah is one step above that and is represented by the number eights, which is above Teva.  The world is simply a stepping stone to get to Torah.  Hashem made the world.  It is our job to go beyond that and fill it with Torah.  We see this in Tehilim 19, where Dovid marvels at Hashem's creation of nature in the first seven pasukim.  In the next eight pasukim, he describes the Torah.

On Chanuka, the light of Torah lit up the darkness that descended upon us with the Greek culture.  The Yom Tov of Chanuka is the celebration of lights, the light of torah.  It is a celebration of eight, a celebration beyond Teva.  It is a celebration for us to out do nature and turn the world into a world of torah.

Mon, 22 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Nosson Of Breslov - Why Do The Candles Disappears? There is a Machlokes between Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel whether we start with eight candles and take one away each day or we start with one and another one each day.  Rav Nosson of Breslov asks, since the miracle was greater every day why would Bais Shammai that we light fewer candles?

Rav Nosson answers that we know Shammai's middah was Din.  A person cannot get more than he deserves.  This Shitta was the driving force of him throwing out the three people seeking geirus but asking for more than they can have specifically to learn only Torah SheBichsav, to learn the whole Torah on one foot, and to be a Kohen.  Hillel on the other hand was the middah of Chesed.  Chesed means giving someone more than he deserves.  In the above cases that meant the time and patience to set them straight.

The light of Chanukah is the Ohr HaGanuz, the hidden light of the Torah.  This light is reserved only for tzaddikim.  Yet on Chanukah Hashem lets it burn for all to see. Each day the light gets brighter with the intensity of the Nes.  Shammai held that as the light gets brighter we must hide it from the undeserving therefore each day we light one less candle.  Bais Hillel however makes no connection between how much light we see and how much we deserve.  Therefore as the lights burn brighter each night, Hillel holds that despite our lowly stature, we too may light an extra light and enjoy the special light of the Shechina.

The lesson for us, says Rav Nosson, is that in this world we pasken like Bais Hillel and we must share our love an our light with even the sinful and undeserving.

Thu, 13 Dec 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Another Reader's Answer to the Bais Yosef's Question: The Whole Point of a a Nes A reader calling himself "Nisim" sent this beautiful answer to the Bais Yosef's question explaining why we celebrate the Nes for 8 days.  Really, if there was one Pach Shemen we only needed to rely on a Nes for Seven days.

A Nes is not about watching the supernatural happen.  It is about recognizing Hashem.  The word Nes actually means tall pole as we see in Bamidbar where Hashem tells Moshe to put a copper snake on a Nes.  When Hashem's hand in the world is clear we call it a Nes because it usually hides and doesn't stand out. 

Therefore one can make the argument that the eighth day was the greatest "Nes".  The first seven days a great miracle happened as the oil lit and didn't burn out.  While there was great joy, the miracle was not complete.  There were still more days to worry about.   Once the seven days past and the new oil was on its way back to Yerushalayim for tomorrow they no longer needed to "wait on shpilkes".   The they were able to completely focus on the great miracle that happened and truly thank Hashem for the victory in war and the restoration of the Bais HaMikdash. 

This recognition happened on the eighth day.  Not that I was there but I can imagine the singing and dancing and hakoras hatov and appreciation of the Ribono Shel Olam that went on all night long as they joyfully celebrated the Nes of Chanukah.  The dveykus probably lasted until the morning and culminated with a gala seudah in honor of the people who brought back the oil and in honor of Hashem.

For more answers and reader discussion on this question you can go to the Help Wanted article "7 Days Miracle or 8"

Mon, 10 Dec 2007 03:00:00 +0000
A Reader's Answer to the Bais Yosef's Question

One of our readers sent this beautiful answer to the Bais Yosef's question of why do we celebrate the Nes for 8 days.  If there was one Pach Shemen then we only needed to rely on a Nes for Seven days.

I once heard from Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl [Revach Editor: Rav of the Old city of Yerushalayim] based on the Ramban, who says that the point of miracles (nes galui) in general is so we should recognize that everything in the world is miraculous (even things considered natural). So the eighth night represents all nisim nistarim (hidden miracles of everyday life)

For more answers and reader discussion on this question you can go to the Help Wanted article "7 Days Miracle or 8"

Wed, 05 Dec 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Electric Menorah - Some Points From the Poskim Most poskim hold that you cannot make a bracha on lighting an electric menorah although it does come in handy at times.  There are many reasons given and we will mention a few.  Not every Posek agrees with the other ones reasons.  Sources worthwhile looking up are (Be'er Moshe Kuntras Electric 58-60, Tzitz Eliezer 1:20:12, Yabia Omer 3:35)

 Pressing a switch is not called lighting.  It is a "Grama"; only causing the lighting and not lighting itself.  Most poskim (including the Rav Zvi Pesach Frank) disagree and hold that you can light through a Grama.  Furthermore they hold that pushing the button is far more than Grama and is considered actually lighting. 

  1. You need a wick and oil.  Electric is none of these.  Some argue and say that the wires are the wick and oil is not necessary at all.
  2. You must have the shiur of oil in front of you when you make the bracha. Here the electricity that you will use in a few minutes is not yet here.  Moreover when you say the bracha there is absolutely nothing present with you at the time.  Those who hold you don't need oil at all argue here as well.
  3. The electric light is considered an "Avuka" a torch, it is not a single wick.  Multiple wicks for one flame are Pasul.  This opinion draws the consensus of both the Tzitz Eliezer and Be'er Moshe.

An important point to note is that the basis for all the leniencies regarding Chanukah lights, as opposed to other Halachic lighting, is that Chanukah is for Pirsum HaNes and therefore many poskim hold that the method is less important.  The outcome of people seeing the lights carries more weight.

With this in mind many poskim hold that if you cannot light a Kosher menorah with real flames you should light an electric menorah without a bracha.  The Be'er Moshe goes as far as saying that if you are in place where can light the menorah with the right amount of oil but will be forced to extinguish it before it lights for thirty minutes, it is better to light an electric menorah that you can keep on for the entire time period without a bracha.

 Disclaimer: We try to convey the Tshuva to the best of our ability. We admit that our understanding may not be accurate. Please also understand that this Tshuva may not be the final word on this topic. One should consult a Rav before drawing any conclusions.

Wed, 05 Dec 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Michtav Mei'Eliyahu - An Inside-Out Chanukah

When one day you make lots of money you are very happy. If you make more the next day you are even happier. If this happened 10 consecutive days you'd be thrilled every time. If someone tells you that your friend just pulled off a very lucrative deal you would be very excited for him. However if this repeated itself every day you'd not only be less happy but at some point you'd think that it is enough already and you don't want to hear about it. What is the difference? Rav Eliyahu Dessler answers that when it is internal, your own happiness, each joyous occasion adds more happiness. However when it is merely external then it is just about the excitement, the newness, the thrill and that wears off with every additional occurrence.

Chanukah is eight days long. Those tzaddikim who connect with the Yom Tov and their joy and Avodas Hashem is internal, grow in happiness with each passing day. However, us simple people whose love of Chanukah is external, our excitement grows dimmer as the days of Chanukah progress.

With this idea he explains the Machlokes between Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel. Bais Hillel says that we light an extra candle every day to show increased happiness and increased light from the Yom Tov. Although this is not our "madreiga" it is something we should aspire too and the level we should mimic. Bais Shammai says no, we must light the candles in a way that is suitable for the level that we are on and each night we lose a candle together with our dwindling enthusiasm.

Wed, 05 Dec 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Bnei Yisaschar: Your Light Shines Bright Even If It Is Blown Out

The Halacha is that if you put enough oil in the Menorah to last the required time period, you have fulfilled your obligation even if it blows out right away. You are not even required to relight it. The Bnei Yisaschar is amazed by this Halacha. The whole Yom Tov of Chanukah revolves around the mitzva of Hadlakas Ner Chanukah, so how is it that the Halacha is so lenient about the candles blowing out? One would think that the flame must actually last for a specified period of time since the mitzva is all about Pirsumei Nisa, publicizing the Nes!

He answers that the light of the menorah represents the wisdom of Torah. Torah is very special in that when you work on it, it is never in vain. Even if after toiling in an area of torah for a long time you realize that your understanding is completely wrong, you still have the Sechar of Torah. Torah is about a "labor of love" and not results. The goal is the journey, not the finish line.

This says the Bnei Yisaschar is the secret to the burnt out flame. Torah shines a light onto the world. We say of a great tzaddik that his light shines from one end of the world to the other. What happens to us lesser people whose torah doesn't produce much light? Chanukah teaches us that even if your Torah is completely useless and it produces no light you still have the mitzva. If you put your heart into your learning no matter how wrong your conclusions are you have the entire Mitzva of Talmud Torah. So too paskens the Shulchan Aruch even if the light of your menorah doesn't shine as long as you poured your oil, your soul, your heart into it, Hashem considers it as dear as the light of the Menorah that gives off a beautiful glow.

Tue, 04 Dec 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Lighting Neiros Chanukah Outside or Inside??

The Halacha is that Neiros Chanuka should be lit outside to publicize the Nes of Chanukah. However says the The Shulchan Aruch (OC 671:5), if it is dangerous to light outside then you can light inside. Some poskim like Rav Binyomin Zilber (Uz Nidberu 10:26) pasken that today since there is no danger to lighting outside you are michuyav to do so. However many people have a minhag to light inside despite the fact the Halacha clearly only makes exception for times of danger. Most poskim accept this minhag and try to justify it through a variety of answers. Regardless of the justification this is a perfectly acceptable minhag that traces its roots back to the Rishonim (The Ohr Zarua and Ittur both mention it.)

Disclaimer: We try to convey the Tshuva to the best of our ability. We admit that our understanding may not be accurate. Please also understand that this Tshuva may not be the final word on this topic. One should consult a Rav before drawing any conclusions.

Tue, 04 Dec 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Bnei Yisaschar: The Month Of Kislev Reveals The 36 Hidden Lights

The Sun and Moon were created on the 4th day of Bereishis.  What was the light source until then?  Until then there was special light with which one can see from one end of the world to the other.  After our current lighting system was put in place on the fourth day, the special light was hidden in the Torah.  This light is what gives the great tzaddikim of each generation, who dwell in the depths of the Torah, their unique ability to know and comprehend things beyond what they have seen and heard.   

The Rokeach says that this is why we light a total of 36 candles during Chanukah (1+2+3...8=36), to celebrate the light hidden in the Torah which is what the celebration of Chanukah is all about.  The Bnei Yissaschar says that this is hinted in the word Kislev.  The first two letter of Kislev are Kuf Samech as in Kisuy or covered.  The last two are Lamed Vuv or 36, for the 36 hours of light that are hidden in the torah and lit on Chanukah.

Sat, 06 Oct 2007 03:00:00 +0000