night, December 25, 2005, begins the festival of
Chanukah. Chanukah is one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays
as it celebrates the Hasmonian defeat of the Macedonian armies,
the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle
of the oil. We, of course, celebrate the holiday by kindling the
Chanukah menorah, one additional candle each night. We do
nothing to commemorate the victory.
reason for non commemoration is that there have been
many instances of small hometown freedom fighters dispelling a
much larger imperialist force. We do, however, include a
paragraph in the daily prayers and grace after meals thanking
G-d for winning the war.
prayer thanks G-d for putting the "strong in the
hands of the weak, impure in the hands of the pure, sinners in
the hands of those who occupy in your Torah." The Talmud
states that the weak refers to the Torah scholars. Learning
Torah takes away one's physical strength.
war is not to be considered miraculous, why do we
bother even mentioning it during prayers? The war to which we
refer in prayer is not against the Macedonians. The prayer
states that the sinners were handed into the hands of those who
keep your Torah. The Greeks were not sinners, they were just
Greeks. Greeks were not "impure". They were Greeks.
That prayer refers to the Hellenists, those Jews who tried to
assimilate into Greek culture.
Chanukah story is a battle of spirituality. Greeks
vs. Jews is no contest in a spiritual struggle. A Jew that is
opposed to Judaism poses a greater threat than that of a non
weak" to which the prayers refer are those
scholars that devote their entire lives to the study of Torah.
People like Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who spent 13 years in a cave
reviewing his studies. It was in the merit of their devotion to
Torah study that the Maccabees were successful. The Talmud
states that King David was successful in battle only because of
the tremendous diligence he displayed in his studies. These were
extraordinary people. The Almighty does not expect such devotion
from us that we become "weak". We are "those who
occupy in your Torah."
purpose of studying Torah is to be able to know how
to perform the mitzvahs. Most mitzvahs require a physical item;
Tefillin are made of physical leather, a Shabbos candle is
physical wax, etc. Those who go into the world and use the
physical to achieve a level of holiness are "fighting G-dís
war". We are in the spiritual trenches, fighting the same
battle as the Maccabees.
Chanukah means rededication. Chanukah is time when we
make a spiritual stock taking how far we have come since our
last assessment. Our sages say that on Rosh Hashana our fate is
written in a book, on Yom Kippur the book is closed. On Succos
the book is put on the shelf. The doors of the bookcase are
closed on the last day of Chanukah. There is still time left to
take advantage of having a happy and sweet year.
this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy and