Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Hanukkah In Our Time
To dedicate this lesson

Hanukkah: A Lesson for Our Generation

On Chanukah are we celebrating our incredible victory in what looked like a suicidal war, the miracle of the pot of oil or both? How does this gives us much-needed insight into current events?


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Kislev 26 5768
The Talmud (Shabbat 21b) asks, "What is Chanukah (in commemoration of which miracle was the holiday of Chanukah established-Rashi)? The Talmud continues with the answer: When the Greeks invaded the Temple, they defiled all the oil that was there. And when the kingdom of the House of the Hashmonaim (the Maccabees) prevailed and defeated them, they searched and found only one pot of oil stamped with the seal of the High Priest, which was enough to light only for one day. A miracle happened and it sufficed for eight days. The following year (the Sages) fixed these days and made them holidays, in (order to express) praise and thankfulness (by reciting the Hallel and the "For Your Miracles" prayer-Rashi)." From this it seems that the praise and thankfulness were established in honor of the miracle of the oil pot. And this is perplexing. Since we say in the prayer, "When the wicked Greek empire stood against Your nation Israel in order to cause them to desert Your Torah...and You in your great mercy stood by them in their time of distress...You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak...and brought a great salvation to Your nation," doesn't it follow that the thankfulness should be mainly for the victory in the war, for the salvation, and for the fact that we have been able to keep the Torah over the generations, rather than for the miracle of the pot of pure oil which they lit for eight days?
Apparently the Hashmonaim had many contemporaries who disapproved of their actions. They said: It is forbidden to fight against the Greeks since they are more powerful and more numerous than we are. The revolt can't possibly succeed. We have to be pragmatic and not be carried away by our imaginations. We must not endanger lives in vain. There were those who said: We have to be realistic, and if we cannot perform the Mitzvot since we are being forcibly prevented, by The Merciful One will forgive us. There were those who alleged that it was prohibited to endanger the existence of the nation in a war against the Greeks, and there were those who claimed that the Torah prohibits us from rebelling against the nations, and that we must wait until Moshiach comes and then G-d will save us. And even after the victory of the Hashmonaim, the criticism against them continued: You acted against G-d's will, it was prohibited to rebel against the nations, there is no value in a victory which is against G-d's will, and in any case the victory is temporary-eventually the Greeks will return to conquer us and then we will suffer much more because we rebelled against them.
And behold...the Hashmonaim enter the Temple and purify it, and G-d performs an explicit miracle-the miracle of the pot of oil. This was the sign that G-d was pleased with their actions and that the war of the Hashmonaim was according to His will. Their self-sacrifice for the sake of G-d and for the sake of the Land of Israel was the proper course of action. Therefore the miracle of the oil pot is specifically emphasized and commemorated throughout the generations in order to publicize the fact that G-d approved, and was pleased by the war of the Hashmonaim.
This comes to teach us that we must awaken, take initiative and act for the redemption of Israel, and not wait for the initiative to come from above. And when there is such an awakening from below, then our subsequent actions merit Divine aid. And whoever opens his eyes can see the Divine providence which has been aiding the actions of those working for the redemption of Israel, the settlement of the land, the ingathering of the exiles and the protection of the land and the nation.
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר