CHANUKAH – HARAV DOV BEGON

Remarkably, the symbol of the State of Israel is the seven-branched candelabra. This is a hint to us to recognize the miracles and wonders that God is performing for us in our generation, just like the Purim and the Chanukah miracles.

Publicizing the Miracles

by HaRav Dov Begon, Head of Machon Meir

The essence of both Rabbinic holidays Chanukah and Purim is to publicize the miracles and wonders that God did for us in those times, and that He does for us in our own times as well.

On Purim we publicize the miracle of God saving the Jewish People from physical destruction. Wicked Haman sought to annihilate all the Jews, young and old, men, women and children, reminiscent of recent similar attempt by the Nazis in Germany and Poland, yet in the Purim story God protected us, and nullified their plot. On the contrary, Haman and his sons were hung. To remember this physical salvation, we eat and drink on Purim, thereby publicizing that the Jewish corpus lives on and endures despite “Hamans” in every generation.

On the other hand, the wicked Greek regime of the Chanukah story wished to extinguish the soul of the Jewish People. They sought to “make them forget God’s Torah and to make them violate the laws expressing God’s will” (Al HaNisim prayer). God protected us in our time of trouble, handing over the “evildoers into the hands of the righteous and the wicked into the hands of those who study Your Torah” (Ibid.). To remember the miracle of God saving the Jewish soul, we light Chanukah candles, for “man’s soul is the candle of God” (Proverbs 20:27). We thereby publicize that the soul of the Jewish People shines forever within every Jew and within every Jewish home. Thus, the Talmud states, “The mitzvah of Chanukah consists of a candle, for each man and his home” (Tractate Shabbat).

Those same forces that operated in the past are active today as well. Unfortunately, there are still anti-Semitic forces lifting their heads in the world. Their goal is akin to that of wicked Haman, the Nazis in Germany and the Communists of the U.S.S.R. during the Stalinist period. We know that none will succeed with their plot. As the Prophet Isaiah said (Isaiah 54:17), “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment, you shall condemn.”

We are commanded to defend the Jewish People from them, not just in Israel, but throughout the whole world, by means of a strong army, and by means of our people all uniting and standing strong on behalf of our national and Jewish survival. It is a mitzvah to publicize the miracle of God’s having saved Israel in our generation. First of all, He established the State of Israel. Second of all, our enemies have attacked us a number of times, with great and mighty forces, but with God’s help we have defeated them.

However the ancient Greek threat to extinguish the soul of the Jewish People, through distancing the Jews from their Judaism, by “making them forget their Torah,” unfortunately still exists as well. Millions of Jews in Israel and throughout the world are far from Judaism and from the Torah. This weakens their identity and their link to the Jewish People and to the State of Israel. It is not enough to defeat Israel’s enemies on the battlefield. We must also increase the light of Israel – the light of “love and faith,” the Torah, which is compared to light, as in Proverbs 6:23: “For the mitzvot are a lamp, and the Torah is light.” To counter such attempts to “make them forget Your Torah and transgress the laws of Your will” (al ha-nissim prayer) we must increase the quantity and quality of Torah learning amongst the Jewish People, and the return to Jewish roots.

With the help of God, here too a miracle is being performed for us like the one in the Second Temple. At that time the Greeks contaminated all the oils. When a single jar of oil was found with the stamp of the High Priest, it sufficed to light the Temple candelabra for eight days even though it actually only contained enough in it for one day. The same has occurred in our own generation. We bear witness that a pure jar of oil is hidden within the heart of every single Jew, whoever he may be, which foreign influences have not succeeded in contaminating. This is being revealed more and more every day, shining additional light upon all of our souls. Tens of thousands of Jews from all walks of life are returning to their roots, returning to the Torah, returning to the synagogue and to Jewish tradition. Just as a person’s soul is likened to a candle, as it says, “God’s lamp is the soul of man” (Proverbs 20:27), so too, the nation’s soul is like a lamp shedding God’s light upon the world. Despite all of their efforts, the nations have not succeeded, nor will they succeed, in extinguishing the light of Israel, “for You swore to him in Your name that his light will never go out” (Haftarah Blessings).

In addition, on Chanukah itself we publicize two different miracles, the more natural one of Matityahu’s military victory over the Greeks, and the supernatural one of the flask of oil, whereby a little oil lasted eight days rather than just one. These two miracles are linked to each other. The former, the Maccabee’s military victory, was the result of the self-sacrifice, boldness and determination shown by Matityahu and his sons, undeterred from attacking an enemy militarily stronger and greater than they. These traits earned them divine assistance, and they merited an enormous victory – which then brought about the supernatural miracle of the flask of oil. In that miracle we merited to see God’s supernatural conduct in the form of the candles that burnt above and beyond their natural limits.

For thousands of years the Jewish People have been lighting Chanukah candles. Even in the darkest times when we were at a spiritual low, deep in the darkness of the exile, the Jews did not cease to light Chanukah candles, remembering the supernatural miracle. These candles teach us about the eternity and endurance of the Jewish People, in every time and place. In so doing they demonstrated the supernatural essence of the Jewish People, the people of eternity. The miracle through natural means, the Maccabee’s victory over the Greeks, was not emphasized in our sages’ words in the darkness of the exile. Today, however, when the Jewish People are rising to rebirth and waging wars against its enemies, it is time to pay attention to this kind of miracle as well.

Remarkably, the symbol of the State of Israel is the seven-branched candelabra. This is a hint to us to recognize the miracles and wonders that God is performing for us in our generation, just like the Purim and the Chanukah miracles. The day is not far off when the Temple will be rebuilt and we will merit to see the actual Temple candelabra, which will shine for us and for the whole world. This Menorah will not just be a symbol of spiritual light but a tangible object, whose candles will offer “testimony to mankind that the Divine Presence rests upon Israel” (Shabbat 22b).

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