Chanukah 5780

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The festival of Chanukkos[1]

והדליקו נרות בחצרות קדשך, וקבעו שמונת ימי חנכה אלו, להודות לשמך הגדול
They lit [the Menorah] lights in Your holy courtyards, and established these eight days of Chanukah, to give thanks to Your great name[2]

The eight-day festival of Chanukah is commonly understood to be in commemoration of the miracle of the Menorah. The Greeks contaminated all the ritual oil which was to be used to fuel the Menorah in the Holy Temple. After their defeat, only one small jar of oil was found. It was enough to light the Menorah for one night. After lighting the Menorah, it miraculously stayed lit for eight days, enough time to finish making more oil. Thus, we celebrate eight days of Chanukah[3]. However, what isn’t commonly known is another version of what inspired this eight-day festival.

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Vayeishev and Chanukah 5779

A kiss from above[1]

והנה אורחת ישמעאלים באה מגלעד וגמליהם נושאים נכאת וצרי ולט הולכים להוריד מצרימה
…behold an Arab[2] caravan was coming from Gilad, and their camels were carrying spices, balm, and lotus; they were taking them to Egypt[3]

The gemarra asks[4] the innocent question: What was the miracle which prompted the establishment of the holiday of Chanukah? It answers that the Greeks, after they conquered the land of Israel, entered the Holy Temple and defiled all the oil that was to be found. When the Jews defeated them, they searched all around for sanctified oil to be used for the Menorah. All they could find was a single vessel that was still sealed. However, there was only enough oil in the vessel to last for one day. They used it anyways, and a miracle happened where the oil lasted for eight days. The following year they established that time of year as a season of rejoicing, with songs of praise and thanks.

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Chanukah 5778

How the Greeks unintentionally increased Torah[1]

כשעמדה מלכות יון הרשעה על עמך ישראל להשכיחם תורתך
When the wicked kingdom of Greece stood against Your nation of Israel, to make them forget Your Torah[2]

What makes something unique reveals part of its inner dimension[3]. One of the things that is unique about Chanukah is it is chronologically the last holiday to have been established in Judaism. What this tells us is Chanukah filled a void that was missing in the Jewish calendar. It filled it with something that will take us until the end of days. What this is will be explained with some background into the history behind the holiday itself.

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Chanukah 5777

The Secret of the Dreidel[1]

ואת יהודה שלח לפניו אל יוסף להורות לפניו גשנה
And [Yaakov] sent Yehudah before him, to Yosef, to teach before him, to Goshen[2]

After Yaakov found out that his son Yosef was not only alive, but that he was the viceroy in Egypt, he and his family made plans to move there. There was a worldwide famine and the only place with food was with Yosef. The verse tells us that Yaakov sent Yehudah ahead of everyone else to Yosef, in the city of Goshen. The question is why was he sent, and why specifically Yehudah[3]. Another question is a grammatical one. The verse says Yehudah was sent גשנה, to Goshen. The normal way to write this would be לגשן. Why did the Torah choose this formulation? Chazal tell us[4] whenever you have a ל at the beginning of a word, which means ‘to’, you can replace it with a ה at the end for the same result. While this explains how it works in the verse, it doesn’t explain why sometimes one format is chosen over another. There must be some significance.

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