I. The lights of Chanukah 1. The Midrash says, "'Mandrakes give off a fragrance.' This is Reuvain who rescued Yosef. 'And at our gates are all manner of choice fruits.' These are the lights of Chanukah." We need to understand what is the relationship between these two ideas. To understand this we need to consider why the halacha* is that the lights of Chanukah may not be used for anything except to look at? This is more strict then for any other type of lights used for a mitzvah*. We know that the lights of Shabbos are more important then those of Chanukah as it says in the writings of the Ari* and in the Talmud* where it says that the 'lights of Shabbos have a priority over the lights of Chanukah.' Even so, the lights of Shabbos are made for personal enjoyment. [While the lights of Chanukah are not. Seeing that the lights of Shabbos are more important it should really be the opposite.] Another question is why, with regards to the mitzvah of Chanukah, do we remember the miracle of the flask of pure oil that was found. However we make no remembrance of the miracle of the victory of the Chashmonuim, which was an example of a larger number of soldiers falling into the hands of a much smaller number. A stronger force in the hands of a weaker one? It is well known that miracles fall into two main categories: 1. Those that come based on a desire or prayer from those below. These are usually clothed in a natural form. An example being the victory of the Chashmonuim in their war with the wicked men in their time. HaShem* gave the strong into the hands of the weak, and the many in the hands of the few. 2. Those miracles and wonders that are beyond the natural order of things, that occur without any desire from those below. For example the creation of the world, or the miracles that occurred when the Jewish people left Mitzrayim*. These were without any influence from the people below. The difference between the two types of miracles is this. Those miracles that are beyond the natural order are recognized by everyone. Whether one is a wise man or a wicked one, he sees that they come from HaShem. They are wondrous in his eyes. However those miracles that are done within the natural order of things are different. There is a place for people to err and think they were not miraculous but the work of a man's strength. However, the children of Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yakov, who are believers in HaShem and the children of believers [in HaShem] realize that even those things that are according to the natural order are also miracles. It says in the sefer* Kedushas Levi that we say in the prayer for Chanukah, 'for the miracles that you do for us every day'. For us specifically. Those things which appear to be done by our own work. Then it says, 'For those wondrous and good things that you do at every time.' Here it leaves out 'to us'. These refer to those things that come without our influence and that HaShem sends us on his own. Therefore Chanukah where the miracles were partly achieved through the Chashmonuim with their war against Antiochus the wicked, we say the prayer, 'May the pleasantness...' over the lights of Chanukah. Because it says there, 'Our handiwork, may He establish.' Which is a remez* that HaShem should help us so that the works of our hands should be established and we should be victorious in the war. Since the miracle of the victory was through the hands of the Chashmonuim, if they had made the holiday based on that victory there would be a place for people to err and say that the war was made for their own desires to rebel and throw off the yoke of that wicked man and to make a name for themselves as great warriors. Not everyone would realize that the war was for the sake of heaven. The Greeks wanted them to forget the Torah and give up their beliefs. Which was the only reason why they made the war. So they purposely did not make the celebration based on the victory of war, but on the lighting of the lights to remind people that they found a flask of pure oil. This shows that their intention in the war was only for the sake of HaShem. For this reason HaShem made miracles for them and gave over the many in the hands of the few. Because of this, it is proper that we should not have any enjoyment of the lights of Chanukah. It is a remez that they did not make the war for their own enjoyment. And also in order that this mitzvah will be a remembrance forever that 'to HaShem belongs victory in war'. But with regards to the lights of Shabbos, which are a remez for the creation of the world, which by itself was beyond the natural order of things, there is no possibility for people to make a mistake. Everyone knows that it happened from HaShem and that no one could help Him with it. [Therefore there is no reason to forbid enjoyment of the Shabbos lights.] Chazal* say that if Reuvain had known what the Torah would say about him that 'he understood and tried to rescue Yosef from his brothers'. He would have carried Yosef on his shoulders to his father. It is hard to understand this. Are they saying he would have done it for his own honor? The Shinover Rov ZT'L* explained that when a person does a mitzvah he should do it only for the sake of HaShem without any other motivation. If Reuvain would have seen how much this act caused him to be separated from his father. And if he had returned Yosef how it would have made him closer to his father's heart. He would have been afraid that his doing the mitzvah would cause him to become arrogant and to have extraneous thoughts. However if he would have seen what the Torah would write, that he wanted to save his brother Yosef from his other brothers' hands, [and that he did it for no other reason but this] he would have exerted himself even more and took him on his shoulders to his father. Now we can see the connection of the two parts of this Midrash. "'Mandrakes give off a fragrance' this is Reuvain who rescued Yosef." His intention in this mitzvah was only for the sake of HaShem and not for any personal enjoyment. That is the reasons that "'and at our gates are all manner of choice fruits.' These are the lights of Chanukah." This is a remembrance of the flask of pure oil and not a remembrance of the miracle of the war. [Which shows that their intention was likewise for HaShem's sake alone.] For that reason it is forbidden to have enjoyment of the lights. They are a remez that the Chashmonuim did not have any other motivation. This teaches the Jewish people that they should do the mitzvos without any other motives expect to do the will of HaShem. (Kintros Kerem Shlomoh 5746 teaching from Admor* m'Bobov Shlita*) * * * II. Trust in HaShem 2. Why is it that the Chochomim* made a remembrance of the miracle of Chanukah and established a holiday for it? The reason is that the war of Matasyahu and his sons with the Greeks shows how much a person should have trust in HaShem. He will help him and he should never give up on the mercy of HaShem. We see this because Matasyahu and his sons fought against the massive forces of the Greeks. They did not give up hope and hold themselves back from this battle, but kept their hope in HaShem. They stood up against them, and HaShem helped them. He gave over the many in the hands of the few. From this it is possible for a person to learn that no matter what the situation a person finds himself in he should not let his spirit fail and say that there is no more hope. The same is in his war with his Yetzer*. Even if he sees that the war with his Yetzer is very difficult. Every day it strengthens itself to overpower him, and he sees no hope in winning. Even so, he should not give up hope of HaShem's mercy. He should strengthen his trust in HaShem. And if he does so, it is certain that HaShem will help him in that battle so that he will conquer his Yetzer. He should not fear his Yetzer, as the Taz* comments on what the Shulchan Aruch* states, "'He should strengthen himself like a lion.' Lion is used specifically because the nature of a lion is that he does not fear anything. So a person should not have any fear of his Yetzer even if it is stronger then him." This is what it says in the seforim, 'When you go out to war with your enemies... do not fear them because HaShem your G-d is with you.' This means in the war with your Yetzer a person should not fear at all because HaShem is with him. With the help of Heaven he will prevail in the battle. If a person has attained a high level of service to HaShem he also needs to fight with his Yetzer so that he should not fall into the midah* of arrogance and consider himself above others. He should always hold himself to be of a lowly stature because in a short moment he could fall (G-d forbid) from his high level. This idea was taught in the name of the Holy Baal Shem Tov (and is quoted in the sefer Degel Machnah Ephraim). He taught that there are some people who hear Torah* directly from HaShem and not from an angel, and even with that they still do not have confidence in themselves that they could not fall and be separated from HaShem. For that reason one should always strive to acquire the midah of 'humility'. This is what is meant in the prayer, On The Miracles, 'He gives over the strong in the hand of the weak.' If a person finds himself on a high level i.e. 'strong' he should give himself over to the 'weak' i.e. the midah of humility. However he must also remember to hold onto that level of 'strong' so that he can overcome his Yetzer and not come to depression. This is the meaning of the strong 'in the hand of' the weak. Humility should go hand in hand with strength. [One should have the midah of humility so one doesn't become arrogant. Also 'strength' so that the Yetzer doesn't overcome him.] This is also the meaning of 'the wicked in the hand of the Tzaddikim*.' These are those two midos I have just mentioned. So we see that Matasyahu and his sons won the war in this manner even though they fought a very great force. And because this miracle has a lesson for all generations the Chochomim established this holiday. (Kintros Hadlikos Ner Chanukah teaching of Admor m'Viznitz-Monsey Shlita 5739) --------------------------------------------------------------------- Glossary: Admor: Hebrew initials for: Adonenu Morenu VeRabenu (Our master, Our teacher our Rabbi). This is a title commonly used with Chassidic Rebbes. Admor of Ger, Admor of Satmer etc. Ari: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud Chocham(Chochomim): Hebrew for 'sage' or scholar halacha: Hebrew word meaning 'law' HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name midah(midos): A character trait, either good or bad. Mitzrayim: Hebrew name for the land of Egypt mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah. remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints in the Torah for various concepts. sefer(seforim): A Jewish religious book. Shlita: Hebrew Initials for the words: Sh'Yichiya L'Aruch Yomim Tovim Amen. (He should have a good long life amen) Shulchan Aruch: 15th/16th century book of Jewish law Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law. Taz:One of the major commentators on the Shulchan Aruch Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law c. also common term for a chassidic teaching Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic Rebbe. Yetzer: lit. Inclination. It is Jewish belief that every Jew has both an evil and good inclination within him, that are at 'war' to see which of them the person will follow. ZT'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik - Righteous person is a blessing.) ************************************************************** Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ( All rights reserved. Issur Hasugas Givil