Beit Midrash

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

The Torah study is dedicatedin the memory of

R. Meir b"r Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld

The Chanukah Revolution Continues

1. Darkness Before the Miracles 2. How Many, And How Few 3. Spiritual Muscles 4. Think Before You Leap 5. The Chanukah Revolution


Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu

Kislev 5762
1. Darkness Before the Miracles
2. How Many, And How Few
3. Spiritual Muscles
4. Think Before You Leap
5. The Chanukah Revolution

The holiday of Chanukah, has much to teach us about the Geulah (redemption) process and about how it starts. When we celebrate Chanukah, we usually concentrate on the victories, the miracles, and the joy. It would be a good idea, however, to think for a moment also about the situation that preceded the victory.

In a word, the pre-miracle circumstances were wretched. The entire Jewish leadership was Hellenist - people who thought like Greeks, not like Jews. Even the Jewish King wasn't named Avraham or Yitzchak; instead, he took a Greek name for himself - Aristobulus! Even the High Priest, whose task it was to provide a balance for the King, to ensure that he was not unduly influenced by political considerations, also adopted a nice Greek name: Menelaus. It turned out that instead of the world receiving enlightenment from the People of Israel, the Jews merely added darkness.

During this period of the first Chanukah, in fact, it turned out that in the entire world, from the north pole to the south, from the east to the west, there was not one person anywhere, including the High Priest, who actively believed in one G-d - except for the family of Judah Maccabee.

When we say the special Al HaNissim prayer for Chanukah, we say that G-d delivered the many into the hands of the few. My father [former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu] always asks, "When we talk about the 'many' and the 'few,' how many were they really?" And he would answer that as far as the 'many' goes, we know that they were a tremendous amount - the armies of Alexander the Great who conquered the world; but the 'few' - Rashi says that they weren't only the five sons of Mattathias, but a group including 12 men altogether.

Twelve people against a superpower, a true world power that no one could defeat?! Amazingly, this was the reality.

They were a small group of men who knew that they were right, that they represented the truth, and that idol worship was false, and who refused to give in - and they succeeded. Today, you can look with a magnifying glass throughout the world and not find anyone who believes in the Greek gods. Of course, there is still idol-worship and impurity in some places in the Far East - but the Greek gods, which for a while were more attractive, have become totally forgotten.

Chanukah has similar significance today. For how did the State of Israel arise? - Also by means of the few against the many. People who came with faith based on the Torah, the Prophets, and the Scriptures - they, against the evil ones. "G-d delivered the strong into the hands of the weak." We sometimes think that the IDF is strong, and this is true - but we know that physical strength is not our thing. The establishment of the State of Israel was definitely a case of the "strong given over in the hands of the weak..."

Judah Maccabee, too; he is always pictured as a man of great muscles, but this wasn't his strength. On the contrary, it was the Greeks who specialized in body-building, in weight-lifting, in Olympic competitions. But Judah Maccabee had instead a spiritual strength - which of course also requires physical tools such as hands, legs, a thinking head - but the strength came from faith, from the knowledge that we need not concern ourselves with what the world says, or with what Bush or Powell say. We know that we are right and just, we go forward with this, and nothing else matters. This is Chanukah.

When we celebrate Chanukah, we have to think. My father says that when we perform a commandment, we must think about it first - think, know what we are doing, do it with all our heart and soul, even say the "L'shem Yichud" prayer [an introductory prayer to many commandments, emphasizing the intentions and sublime ideas behind them], so that it will fill our entire being. We must celebrate Chanukah in a way that it will fill our entire consciousness, our entire being. We must understand deeply what happened there:

What happened was that there was a small group within the Nation of Israel that was able, finally, to inspire the entire nation. One small group who changed the entire nation! And the people then said, "We are going with the faith of our forefathers, and not with the idols of Greece! Idol worship will all fall by the wayside, and the teachings of our forefathers are what guide the world."

This world revolution began on Chanukah. Before the first Chanukah, the entire world was full of idol worship; even Christianity and Islam were not around yet. The whole world was pagan. But starting from the time of Chanukah, the world began to veer away from idol worship and to pave the way for belief in one G-d. Starting from Chanukah, little by little, city after city, one at a time, began to throw away their paganism, and started believing in one G-d, the G-d of Avraham Avinu. As the Scriptures teach us, in the end everyone will say, "G-d, the L-rd of Israel rules, and His rule controls everything."

We must remember that, as the Chanukah blessings say, "as it was in those days, at this time." It means that today, too, we must not be worried or concerned about the different "idols" or what is said in various quarters. All we have to do is to open the T'nach (Bible) and see what G-d said there, via Moses, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and to see what G-d told us via Hosea, and to know clearly - that *that* is what will be: The word of our G-d will last forever.

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