Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Extraordinary Insight into Chanuka

This is my translation of Eli's Drasha. It is a gem, one of those הכל בחזקת סומין עד שהקדוש ברוך הוא מאיר את עיניהם ideas.

The Lamps of Zechariah

On Chanuka, we read the parsha of the Inaugural Offerings brought by the Tribal Princes, and the Haftara is the Lamps of Zechariah (Zechariah 2:14- 4:7).  Rashi explains the relation  of the Haftara to Chanuka is the verse "and I saw, behold a golden menorah..."  Tosfos Shabbos 23 writes that reading this Haftara publicizes the miracle of Chanuka, and this is why we prefer it over the usual haftara of Hashamayim Kis'i.  This is chidush, because it seems that the haftara of Zecharia is completely irrelevant to the idea of Chanuka and it was chosen because of the mere simple mention of the Menora.  Also, why would Chazal not have chosen a different chapter in Zecharia, Chapter 9, which says "and I will awaken your sons, Zion, over your sons, Yavan,"  which directly addresses the central concept of the Chanuka, the victory over the Greeks.  In fact, according to Rashi and others this latter prophecy in Chapter 9 was specifically said regarding the victory of the Chashmona'im over Antiochus!  Does a mere mention of the word "menora" in an irrelevant context outweigh a direct reference to the victory of Antiochus??

Our Haftara lists many attributes of the menora in the vision.
And the angel who spoke with me returned, and he awakened me as a man who wakes up from his sleep.

And he said to me, "What do you see?"

And I said, "I saw, and behold [there was] a candelabrum all of gold, with its oil-bowl on top of it, and its seven lamps thereon; seven tubes each to the lamps that were on top of it.

And [there were] two olive trees near it; one on the right of the bowl, and one on its left.

So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, "What are these, my lord?"

Pure gold, bowl on top, seven lamps upon seven arms, seven pipes for the lamps, two olives upon it, one to the right and one to the left.

Zechariah did not understand what he was being shown, and the angel explained לֹא בְחַיִל וְלֹא בְכֹחַ כִּי אִם בְּרוּחִי, "not with might, not with force, only with my spirit, so says Hashem, the lord of hosts.  How was this prophetic message encapsulated in Zechariah's vision of this menorah?

This prophecy in Zechaiah was said in the second year of the reign of Darius.  This was the time during which they began building the second Beis Hamikdash, as explained in the book of Chagai.  The entire book of Chagai involves a number of prophecies that were said during four months  of Darius' second year, and their message is to encourage and stimulate the building of the mikdash.  The last prophecy in the book of Chagai is the following:

On the twenty-fourth [day] of the ninth [month], in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Haggai the prophet, saying:

So said the Lord of Hosts: Now ask the priests the Torah, saying:

Should a man carry sacred flesh in the skirt of his garment, if it touches in his skirt the bread and the pottage and the wine and the oil, or any food, will it [the food] become contaminated?" And the priests replied and said, "No."

And Haggai said, "If the contamination of a dead body touches all these, will it become contaminated?" And the priests replied and said, "It will become contaminated."

And Haggai replied and said, "So is this people, and so is this nation before Me, says the Lord; and so is all the work of their hands, and whatever they sacrifice there is contaminated.

And now, consider from this day and before-before placing a stone upon a stone in the Temple of the Lord
so that they should not come to a heap of twenty measures, and there would be ten; [similarly,] when one would come to the wine vat to draw off fifty press-measures, and there would be twenty.

I smote you with blast and with yellowing and with hail in all the work of your hands, and you are not [returning] to Me, says the Lord.

Pay attention now, from this day and before-from the twenty-fourth [day] of the ninth [month]- from the day that the Temple of the Lord was founded, pay attention.

The seed is still in the granary, and the grapevines, the fig trees, the pomegranate trees, and the olive trees have not yet borne [fruit]-from this day I will bless."

And the word of the Lord came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth of the month, saying:

Say to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, saying: I am shaking up the heaven and the earth.

And I will overthrow the throne of the kingdoms, and I will destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations. And I will overthrow the chariots and their riders; and the horses and their riders shall come down, each one by the sword of his brother.

On that day, says the Lord of Hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, My servant; says the Lord, and I will make you as a signet; for I have chosen you, says the Lord of Hosts.

This prophecy is very obscure.  First the prophet says that because Tuma ruins Kedusha, and not vice versa, the people's sacrifices have no value.  Then, immediately, he encourages them  to build the mikdash and promises that from this day and on, the day the foundation of the mikdash is laid, the bad times will end and blessings will begin.

The prophet emphasizes three times "pay attention" to this day.  The"day" is the twenty fourth of Kislev, the day before a stone was placed on a stone to build the temple.  From that day and on, from the foundation day, blessing will come.  In other words, the first day of building, in the time of Zerubavel and Yehoshua the Kohen was the twenty fifth of Kislev.

The first to note this remarkable coincidence is the Yaavetz in his Mor Uktziah, OC 670, who writes that the institution of Chanuka on the twenty fifth of Kislev  also memorializes the day Chagai proclaimed "pay attention to this day, the day we begin rebuilding the Second Temple."  With this he answers the question of the Beis Yoseph that there seems to be no miracle to commemorate on the twenty fifth, since there was enough oil for one day.  He says that the holiday on the twenty fifth is not for the miracle of the oil but rather to remember the day the second temple had been begun.

With this, we also can answer the other question of why does Chanuka begin on the twenty fifth: If the Chashmonayim entered the sanctuary on the twenty fifth , as the Rambam says, and as stated in Megilas Chashmonayim, then the lighting of the menora must have been on the eve of the twenty sixth!  The answer is, as explained, that the twenty fifth had ancient significance as the day the Anshei Knesses Hagdola laid the foundation of the Bayis Sheini, as was well known to Chazal when they instituted these days of commemoration.  (By the way, it was on the twenty fifth that the Greek idolators profaned the altar, as stated in Chashmona'im 1:1:57.  They probably chose that day to ridicule the hopes of those few that held on to the vision of the founders of the Bayis Sheini.)

The prophecy of the candles of Zecharya was said on the twenty fourth of Shvat of that year, two months after the founding of the new temple in Kislev.  First, Zechariah promises that Jerusalem will be rebuilt and secure, and then the prophet sees Yehoshua the Kohen dressed in filthy clothes, filthied by sin.  The Satan finds an opening to accuse.  Despite this, Hashem removes the sin and dresses him in clean priestly clothing.  No mention is made of repentance at all.  Is this not a puzzle?  After being told that he was unworthy, he is told, ok, it's fine, go ahead and act as if you were a meritorious Kohen Gadol.  What happened, what changed?  Perhaps the solution to this puzzle will explain the obscure prophecy in Chaggai, as follows:

Although the Kohen Gadol, and the People he represents, are sullied with sin, still and all, by grace and kindness, and not by merit, Hashem, in a manner of speaking, disregards the sins and removes the sin of the land on that day.

In other words, Chaggai was right.  The people are tamei, and they will sully the temple more than the temple will make them tahor..  And despite that, in an exceptional manner, Hashem commands them to build the temple despite their being unworthy.  This indeed is miraculous, and Yehoshua Kohen Gadol and his cohort have experienced   a singular event.  But what is the answer to Chaggai's question?  If Israel would sully the Temple, what use is such a Temple? It is here that the vision of the menora comes into play.

Rashi explains that the menora had a large basin atop it, and each of the seven lamps had seven small pipes that brought oil from the basin to the lamps.  Next to the menora were two olive trees, and the olives fell from the tree by themselves nad pressed themselves, and the oil ran into the basin and from there to the menora. and the lamps. In other words, the Menora described here is not just the Menora that stood in the Mikdash.  This is a Menora that lights itself.  What is the import of this vision?  How is it connected to the vision of Yehoshua and his dirty clothing?  How does it lead to the passuk "not with strength and not with force...?"  Perhaps we can say that the prophet was saying that while normally, the mitzva of lighting the Menora is given over to the Jewish People, and it is they that are required to plant olive trees, to harvest, to press, to light, but the Menora of the Second Bayis was a Menora that lit itself without human involvement.

This was the answer to Chaggai's question, the explanation to the conundrum of the disregard of the sins of Yehoshua and his generation-   and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day, Zecharia 3:9.  Indeed, under normal circumstances, under   preferable circumstances, the kedusha of the Mikdash would reflect and stem from the high , spiritual level of the People and it would be we that would light the Menora.  But here, in these exceptional circumstances, a Mikdash was built in which Hashem Himself lights the Menora, because Klal Yisrael is not able or worthy to do so. According to this, the passuk should be read thus:  If only we would have meritted, the Mikdash would have been built with the strength and force of Klal Yisrael, in other words, with our spiritual merit.  But, the prophet tells us, in this case, not with force and not with strangth- this Bayis, the Bayis Sheni, is built not with the spiritual force and strength of the People, it is not בחרבי ובקשתי, as Yaakov Avinu said about his achievements (see Breishis 48:22 and importantly the Targum Onkelos there), but rather B'ruchi, with My Spirit- by My will, exclusively and specifically with divine initiative, in that the status of Klal Yisrael does not in any way justify doing so. And why did this happen?  Why did they receive this boon?  The Yaaros Dvash explains that "it would have been much better that the Galus continue unabated...but...if had this situation would have continued for too much more time, the Torah would have been  utterly and irretrievably forgotten.  So Hashem brought us back to His guard at the end of seventy years...and the teachers of Torah to the public flourished and instituted many ordinances and measures to guard the observance and maintenance of the Torah, as Hashem inspired them. 

If so, this vision of the Menora is a vision of an autonomous self-lighting menora, and it symbolizes the condition of the second Bayis, that was given to us only by heavenly impetus in order to lift them from their debased condition, as our passuk says, and as similarly said at the end of Chaggai, So said the Lord of Hosts: If you walk in My ways, and if you keep My charge, you, too, shall judge My house, and you, too, shall guard My courtyards, and I will give you free access among these who stand by....behold! I bring My servant, Tzemach, the Shoot.  If they would improve their spiritual level, Hashem would change the Mikdash from a undeserved gift made necessary by the spiritual crisis of Klal Yisrael into a Mikdash that stems from the holiness of Klal Yisrael. 

And exactly as was shown to these neviim was once again experienced in the day of the Chashmona'im.  Then too the Mikdash was tamei and deconsecrated, and many Jews were turning to Greek culture, and all the people were asking the same question as Chaggai asked, and even so they cleansed anew the Mikdash and brought back the Avoda.  What Zecharya saw in a vision, they saw in reality- a menora that lit of its own accord!  This is exactly the nevua'h of Zecharya!  This endlessly burning Menora proclaimed "Not with your force, not with your power, is the Shechina resting in the house, only because of My Ru'ach, My choice, even though you are not yourselves worthy."   Both in the first iteration of the second Bayis in the day of Yehoshua Kohen Gadol and Zerubavel, and in the second in the time of the Chashmona'im, Klal Yisrael were not successful in elevating themselves by means of the re-sanctified Temple, and so the prophecies of the end of Zecharya were not fulfilled, and Hashem did not send His servant, Tzemach David, the Shoot.  

The importance of the cruse of oil is not that it burned for so long, but in that it expressed with absolute clarity the return of Zecharya's prophecy, that Hashem rested His Shechina on the Mikdash even when Klal Yisrael was on a low spiritual level, so that they could survive the Galus. According to this, the prophecy of the candles of Zecharya is directly on point to the miracle of Chanuka, and we now understand that it publicizes the miracle, as Tosfos in Shabbos says. According to this, the commemoration and celebration of Chanuka is not on the return of the Avodas Hamikdas to its place, because then we would ask, as the Gemara in Rosh Hashanna asks, what is the point of remembering the miracle of Chanuka, when any benefit it brought has long evaporated and replaced with suffering worse than that which preceded it- what good is the memory of grapes to the starving-again fox?  Our commemoration of Chanuka is not the actual rebuilding of the Bayis, not by the Anshei Knesses Hagedola and not the renewal by the Chashmona'im.  It is the knowledge that even when we don't deserve Hashra'as HaShechina, Hashem goes beyond din and provides grace to Klal Yisrael at a level far beyond what they deserve-- for the purpose of elevating them and giving them the opportunity to work themselves up to a point where they can actually deserve what they have been granted, so that they will be able to light the Menora by themselves, by dint of their own merit, as the Yaaros Dvash explained.  

In brief, the miracle of the oil showed us that we needed a divine gift, that we were not yet zocheh to accomplish kedusha on our own.  It was a gift - it was לא בחיל ולא בכח.  This infusion of kedusha was a great chesed, because we we so desperately fallen that we were inexorably advancing toward the brink of a cliff and totally incapable of saving ourselves without an infusion of Kedusha.  Here is a mashal: it was like a government declaring martial law during a crisis in order to preserve a democracy.  Hashem said "I will grant you this miracle, this gift of Kedusha, as an emergency measure that will enable you to try, once again, to work yourselves up to a point where you can earn it yourselves."  We all look forward to- and work to achieve- the time when we will not need any more such miracles, because we will light the menora, every day, all by ourselves, and we will win our battles בחרבי ובקשתי.


  1. thanks for the translation, though the degree of histadlus targeted, "all by ourselves", sounds over-the-top: siyata d'shmaya must flow through the
    operational tubing at all times!

    to note, with my sword & with my bow, 48:22, was Yisrael Avinu, not his zayde from Ur Kasdim

  2. Both good points.

    As for "all by ourselves," yes, you're right. That sounds like a child that did something trivial and says "I did it all by myself." In truth, we "earn" nothing but for the Chesed of Hashem, which we discussed once regarding the clowns who think they can sell their Olam Haba. But still, there's a difference between outright nahama d'kisufa and at least contributing something.

    The other point I'm changing in the post. I also forgot to mention that I was referring to the Targum Onkelos there, which will be obvious to some, not to others. So thanks for saving me having to look up the passuk.

  3. One should aspire to achieve"by himself" and then וזכרת את ד' אל' כי הוא הנתן לך כח לעשות חיל applies

  4. You might have addressed this here do you have the answer?

  5. I think you missunderstood the question it was where is the additional yom tovim correlation come from?

  6. You are right. I read the question too quickly and referred only to the commonly known abbreviation. I never heard of the other one.

  7. do you know anyone you can ask?