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- Articles about Hanukkah
"'Formless and empty, with darkness on the face of the depths' (Bereshith 1:2).'Darkness'-this is the Greek empire, which darkened the eyes of Israel." (Bereshith Raba 2:4) "The freeing of the spirit of Israel, unique in its inner purity, from the oppression of the Greek spirit, boastful of its external beauty and under which dwells ugliness and impurity-the emancipation we obtained by virtue of the holy awakening of the revitalization of the national spirit, at the hands of those who were valiant in their devotion for holiness (namely) the Hashmonaim the holy Kohanim, placed its stamp on the progression of the generations for all times. The clash between the spirit of Greece and the spirit of Israel, this is a process which does not stop until the revelation of the light of that great day, in which holiness will be deemed righteous (in which the righteousness of the nation of Israel will be revealed by the king Moshiach)" (Rabbi A.I. Kook, Ma'amarei Hare'iya page 150).
In Sefer Hayetzira (chapter 5, and see the commentary of the Ramak there) appears a fascinating correspondence between the months of the Jewish year and certain Hebrew letters. Every month has its special letter; every month has its special spiritual significance. In this list, the letter Nun corresponds to the month of Heshvan, whereas the month of Kislev is matched up to the letter Samech. The Talmud (Brachot 4a) reveals that the letter Nun expresses (and is the first letter in the word) Nefillah (falling, descent), as is hinted to by the verse (Amos 5:2) "The Virgin Israel has fallen, she will not rise again" (the first word in the original Hebrew is Naflah-"has fallen"). Similarly, when King David wrote the Psalm "Ashrei Yoshvei Beitecha" (in which the verses are ordered according to the Aleph-Bet), he excluded the letter Nun. The Talmud continues, "even so, David went back and supported them with divine inspiration, as is written, "G-d supports all the fallen" (this verse begins with the word Somech-"supports"-which begins with the letter Samech). So just as the letter Nun implies falling, the letter Samech is the one that props up the fall, it is the remedy for that decline.
What is the "fall" and what is the "support"? Human falling is largely the result of despair of this world. The permanent laws of nature-the physical world being an unchanging and cyclical factor-create the impression that what always has been is what always will be. There is never anything new, no revolutions; there is no way to escape the restrictions of nature. Or, in the words of the Greek philosopher, "the world is ancient"- frozen (stagnant), metallic, hopeless. This kind of outlook breeds inactivity, sleepiness and dulling of the senses. Therefore our Sages say, (Midrash Raba, Bereshith 17): "The beginning of decline-is sleep"; sleep is a condition of diminishing of the faculties, despair and decline. In contrast, we find another expression of the Sages (Brachot 57b): "A dream is one of sixty (one-sixtieth) of prophecy (the Gemmatria -numerical value-of the letter Samech is sixty). Despite the fact that man sleeps and detaches himself from this world out of his despair, he encounters another dimension of existence-prophecy, vision, and dream! The man internalizes the fact that alongside the physical world with its dry system of laws, there exists another, more meaningful plane. There is the Divine process pushing forward the world towards its purpose-towards the good, towards happiness, towards breaking out of the limitations of this world. This is hinted to by the fact that the letter Samech appears for the first time in the Torah (in the word Sovev, "encompasses") in the verse, "And a river flowed out of Eden...which encompasses the entire land of the Havillah (Bereshith 2:11)." In other words, there is a spiritual dimension which encompasses us (this is expressed graphically by the shape of the letter Samech - a circle); in addition to that reality which is visible, there is a light which encompasses it, vitalizes it and supports it even when it falls.
At night, at the time of sleep, in the dark - the Greek outlook prevails. The Sages say (Bereshith Raba 2:4): "'Formless and empty, with darkness on the face of the depths' (Bereshith 1:2).'Darkness' - this is the Greek empire, which darkened the eyes of Israel." Greece expresses the materialistic world view, which regards human philosophy and the physical body as paramount. Their ideology claims that there is nothing in the world besides bowing down to the unchanging, frozen set of rules of the natural world. The month of Heshvan is liable to cause man to feel: This is a depressing month, it is rainy and the daily routine is draining. Man says to himself, Can there ever be anything new? Is there anything in the world besides the gray, monotonous cycle of life? Therefore, after the falling of the month of Heshvan comes the support of the month of Kislev. In the month of Kislev is the holiday of Hanukkah, and the darkness of Greece disappears. In the month of Kislev appears the light which encompasses the march of history, which supports man and gives him security. It is important to note that despite the fact that the origin of the names of the months is in the Babylonian language, the fact that they have been integrated by the nation of Israel allows us to delve into their deep meanings. Therefore we can point out that the meaning of the Hebrew root KeSeL is confidence, as in "May G-d be your confidence (Proverbs 3:26)" and "If I placed my confidence in gold (Job, 31:24)." That is to say, that the month of Kislev is the month of confidence: confidence that the light will drive away the gloom, confidence that profoundness will overcome superficiality, confidence that liveliness will replace sleepiness - and confidence that we will find the strength to drive the darkness out of ourselves!