Wednesday, December 05, 2007

On Chanukah

The Mystery of Thirty Six

We may look at the light and not immediately think miracle. But look again and there it is. Chanukah is about hidden light. Over Chanukah we light a total of thirty-six lights (8+7+6+5+4+3+2+1=36). These thirty-six lights represent the hidden light of truth. Tradition tells us that there are 36 hidden tzadikim-righteous people in this world. The month in which Chanukah begins, Kisleiv, can be punctuated to read Kas/LamedVav - the hidden 36.

In Paradise Adam merited the ohr haganuz-hidden light, for thirty-six hours (12 on Friday + 24 of Shabbos). Adam lost his outer covering when he was expelled. The nails we have are the remnant of that original covering. We look at the light and reflect it off our fingertips on Motzai Shabbos-Saturday night when that light was lost.

Darkness From the Light

Chanukah is the only holiday that coincides with Rosh Chodesh. On Rosh Chodesh the first sliver of the moon reappears after having seemed to have disappeared forever into darkness. The first mitzvah presented to the Jewish People as a whole was the new moon, which serves as a metaphor of historical destiny - to wane and flourish.Mashiach was born on Tisha B'Av. History is divided into three sections. I. Creation II. Torah III. Redemption. The period of redemption begins with the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash. We live past the time of open miracles and prophecy. Yet, if we look we can see miracles every day.

The mitzvah is to light the menorah at night, representing the light coming out of darkness. When lit in the doorway, the menorah is placed on the left side, representing our weaker side, the light that still shines and emanates from our souls. As one of the quotes in my high school yearbook reminded, “there is a light in the darkness of everybody's life."

Chanukah was established "lehodot u'lehalel"- to thank and praise. We sing praise to G-d for salvation and thank Him for the dark times, which make the happy endings possible.

Bleaker and Brighter Days

Dovid HaMelech - King David wrote that we speak of G-d's kindness in the morning and his faith in the night. Rashi interprets this metaphorically: the day is redemption and the night is exile, the first part of the redemption. Read carefully, Dovid HaMelech’s words: "LeHagid Baboker Chasdechah, Ve'Emunatchah Baleilot" means, "to speak of your kindness in the morning and YOUR faith in the night. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach explained that G-d has faith in us in the night, is with us at our most painful. During times of loss he sees the flickering light and fans the flame of salvation.In the beginning of time, Adam saw the days getting shorter and considered that this was the death that was his punishment; the world was reverting to darkness. When Adam saw the days begin to get longer he set up an eight day holiday celebrating what he learned to be the way G-d made the world. Before the diminishing light disappears, the remaining sparks grow and days are again filled with light.

Dovid HaMelech writes, "Aromimchah Hashem Ki Delitani-I will praise you G-d for you have lifted me up." The Sfat Emet explains that the word "delitani” means to make like a deli-pail that is lowered into the well empty to disappear. So too with us, we're thankful for the entire process.

What Is Chanukah?

Al HaNissim speaks of the war victory. The Gemora defines Chanukah by the miracle of the oil. At first glance this appears to be a contradiction. The Maharal explains that the people didn't see the three year was as miraculous. But the blatant miracle of the oil reflected back on all that came before it as miraculous as well.

At the time of Chanukah pure oil was found for one day. It lasted for eight. Since there was enough oil for one day, the miraculous burning of oil lasted for seven days, so why do we celebrate eight days? Rav Dovid Feinstein suggests that the oil lasted naturally for one day and then miraculously for seven more. We celebrate the first day as a reminder that the fact that oil burns at all is a miracle.

Naturally Miraculous

The point of the big miracles, like the exodus from Egypt, is to remind us that everyday is a miracle. The only difference between nature and miracle is how often they happen. Rabi Chanina ben Dosa's daughter once set out vinegar instead of oil for Shabbos candles. he said, "He who said that oil will burn will say that vinegar should burn." He mentioned G-d's saying that oil should burn as a reminder that oil burning is a miracle. The miraculous burning of oil reminded us that seemingly natural occurrences like the burning of flames and the winning of wars are miracles. May we be blessed to see the light in the darkness


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it hard not to work while the candles are burning. There are dishes in the sink.

(Just a weird and slightly off-topic observation.)

December 5, 2007 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Hmmm. It reminds me a little of a comment a rebbe of mine made years ago when walkmans were new - that we have a hard time being alone with our thoughts. It's only for a half hour...

While we're being off topic - do you know how to make it that I get emailed whe I get a comment? That was happening until today and for some reason now isn't.

December 5, 2007 at 3:51 PM  

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