The Aftermath Of Chanukah - כתוצאה מחנוכה

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The Aftermath of Chanukah



For many years, we have celebrated Chanukah with great excitement. Over that time, the holiday has evolved as an occasion for family gatherings and many other exciting activities. The MENORAH of Chanukah is placed in many buildings in New York City, which suggests that there are still many Jews throughout the world who are still celebrating this Holiday today.


I think we should ask ourselves, what exactly are we celebrating on Chanukah? Why is Chanukah such a popular Holiday?


The rabbis in the Talmud (Shabbat 21) ask the famous question “What is Chanukah?”  Rashi interprets the question of the Talmud right away by responding with, “What was the miracle that caused the rabbis to establish this Holiday?”


When the Talmud asks, “what is Chanukah?” it cannot just be asking about the historical facts, rather, I think, it is asking a much more fundamental question. The Talmud is asking why did we bother to establish a Holiday of Chanukah? I would like to elaborate on that question by posing another question. Why shouldn’t we have established this Holiday?


The Talmud (Sotah 49) brings the following story about the descendents of the heroic Chashmonaim.


“Our Rabbis taught: When the kings of the Hasmonean house fought one another, Hyrcanus was outside and Aristobulus within. Each day they used to let down denarii in a basket, and haul up for them [animals for] the continual offerings. An old man there, who was learned in Greek wisdom, spoke with them in Greek, saying: 'As long as they carry on the Temple-service, they will never surrender to you'. On the morrow they let down denarii in a basket, and hauled up a pig. When it reached half way up the wall, it stuck its claws [into the wall] and the land of Israel was shaken over a distance of four hundred parasangs. At that time they declared, — 'Cursed be a man who rears pigs and cursed be a man who teaches his son Greek wisdom!'”



This story took place about 200 years after the miracle, but it’s still the same family of the Hasmonean. It is evident in their names, that they didn’t fallow a Jewish heritage. In addition to that, we see from this story that they couldn’t even speak the Jewish language, they needed a man who was able speak to them in Greek.


One may ask, why are we celebrating this Holiday? It looks like in the long run this Holiday failed completely?


The Talmud answers this question threw the story of the olive oil.


“What is [the reason of] Hanukkah? For our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislew [commence] the days of Hanukkah, which are eight on which a lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they made search and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient for one day's lighting only; yet a miracle was wrought therein and they lit [the lamp] therewith for eight days. The following year these [days] were appointed a Festival with [the recital of] Hallel and thanksgiving.”

Oil, according to our sources, represents the wisdom and spirit of our nation. The miracle that the rabbis highlight is that in every generation there is a motion of purity that one must work with. It may be hard to find, but it’s there.

Notice that only a year after the miracle occurred did they decided to establish the holiday. This ultimately points out that every generation, and I would even say every year, has its unique potential.

The Rabbis from that time try to convey a powerful message to all of us today explaining that there should not be any complaints about the situation, but rather, we should look deep in our world and find the light in the dark times.



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