Chanukah, we recall the deeds of the ancient Greeks who entered the Holy
Temple and defiled the oils which were used in lighting the menorah.The
Hasmonean fighters rebelled and drove the Greeks out. When
they came into the Temple and searched for pure oil with the seal of the
High Priest, all they found was just one vial amongst the many defiled
ones. This single vial of oil burnt in the menorah and illuminated the
sanctuary for eight days! This was the miracle of Chanukah.
פרק ל"א, ג'
mystical thought, oil is symbolic of chochmah, the highest aspect
of the intellect from which inspirational thought is derived. The Talmud
mentions that in a certain area in Israel, Tekoa, where the use of olive oil
had become common, chochmah had also become common. Just as chochmah is
related to the highest level in the intellect, inspired thinking, it is also
related to the fear of G-d as it is written in Psalms 111, “the beginning
of chochmah is the fear of G-d.”
פרק ט', י'
mystics understand that the intellect is divided into three
divisions, chochmah, binah and daat. Binah is the aspect of the thinking
process in which we understand by comparison and analyses. Daat is the part
of the intellect which connects his abstract thought to the reality of
emotions and action.
example of binah is a student who studies his chemistry text book
and through careful consideration of the material can understand the subject
matter. Another example is by comparing two given physical phenomena in
order to arrive at a common understanding of them such as studying the
effect of gravity on various objects to understand gravity. Chochmah, on the
other hand, is inspiration which brings to thought. Chochmah is like a
teacher who gives a lesson; whereas binah is like a student who must digest
and understand what has been taught. Chochmah is also compared to seeing,
whereas binah is considered hearing; seeing does not necessarily entail
understanding even though it cannot be doubted, whereas hearing implies
Greeks were the world’s great thinkers. They gave the world
Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras, and many more. They boasted of
various impressive schools of philosophy, art, and literature. The Greeks
were a light unto the rest of the world and their ideas spread to many
lands. Much of today’s western thought is based upon their Greek
Greeks utilized binah to verify chochmah.
|| To the Jew, binah is subservient to chochmah.
Greeks believed in utilizing the mind to its fullest and they
exalted the greatness of the human intellect. They admired great thinkers
and disdained those who clung to superstitions. Although they believed in
the existence of good and evil, and that man should live according to what
was good they defined them by the human intellect.
defined intellectual thought as binah. They accepted chochmah,
but only insofar as it could be verified through intellectual means. In
other words, they utilized binah to verify chochmah.
Jewish belief is that the concept of good and evil were not
humanly defined, but they are defined by G-d in the holy Torah. To us,
chochmah is the highest gift, a divine present from G-d. We must use our
understanding to fathom the divine dictates of the Torah and thereby reach
an understanding of the divine. But it is merely a human’s understanding
of the infinite wisdom of G-d and not the essential actual understanding of
G-d’s rationale. To the Jew, binah is subservient to chochmah.
to some degree the Greeks
envied the Jewish mind, they rejected the subjugation of our thinking to
what they viewed as dogma. To the Greeks, the understanding mind (binah) was
the highest form of human endeavor and was praiseworthy. In their eyes, our
suppression of our minds (binah) in view of the chochmah (inspiration) of
the Torah was a derision of our human faculties.
their profaning the holy oil in the Temple is mystically understood as an
attempt to quell the Jewish subjugation of the mind to a source which is
above the mind, chochmah of the Torah. Yet although they tried to profane
the oil, the source of our chochmah, G-d Himself, caused them to miss one
small vial of oil.
the Maccabees found this lone vial, representing the infinite
chochmah of the Torah they ignored the defiled vials of oil (representing
the wisdom of the Greeks). They used this pure oil to light the menorah. The
Menorah itself represents daat the connection between the intellect and the
actualization of the self. In this manner they expressed their desires to
return to G-d and His holy Torah. G-d in turn showed his satisfaction with
their actions by allowing a miracle to occur. In place of burning for one
night, the oil lasted for eight days.
number eight in mystical thought is significant. Since the world
was created in seven days, seven is synonymous with nature and all that is
worldly. The position of the Greeks was to give esteem to all achievements
that were based on man’s worldly intellect. The eighth day represents one
above seven, one above nature - the divine, the infinite, and the G-dly. The
miracle of Chanukah is eight days reflecting G-d’s favor upon our pure
menorah in the Temple had only seven branches,
Chanukah menorahs which have eight. The seven branched menorah burnt and
illuminated the Temple for eight days. This means that the seven branched
menorah, symbolizing the seven days of creation, nature and worldliness, was
elevated by oil which should have burnt only one day. The eight days
represents the aspect of the divine, the aspect of above nature – but it
is in the seven branched menorah. This is the divine light illuminating the
when we light an eight branched menorah, we must ignite our
divine spark. We must reach to the level above nature. When we kindle our
eight branched menorah for eight days, we are reaching up to G-d to relight
our holy spark.
like our brave ancestors, fulfill our aspirations and achieve a radiance of
the G-dly here in our world.
Lazerson is a staff writer for the Jewish Magazine, http://www.jewishmag.com
more articles by Avi Lazerson