Points to Ponder Chanukah 5777

1) Hallel on Chanukah – How could we say Hallel on Chanukah if on Purim we do not since we are still considered the servants of Achashveirosh? The Chanuka story happened later and if so, we are still enslaved (See Megillah 14a)? Rav Hutner explained that in regard to Purim the celebration is in honor of the Jewish nation. That honor is incomplete and thus, we cannot say hallel. However, when it comes to Chanukah, the celebration is in honor of the Torah and on Chanukah the status of the Torah returned to an unadulterated state. That is a complete reason to say Hallel.

2) Al HaNissim – We note that after the great battle, the Jews returned to the Beis HaMikdash and lit candles. Why was it not enough to celebrate the military victory? Rav Ahraon Leib Shteinman Shlita explains that the purpose of Chanukah is to see the Hashgacha of Hashem in everyday events. Some might confuse the purpose of the victory and come to celebrate the battle as one of independence. Therefore we highlight the miracle with the oil in order to remind everyone of Hashem’s Hashgacha over the world. Alternatively, one could argue that masses falling in the hand of the few already demonstrates Hashgacha but the lesson here was bigger. The fact that only a few recognized the Hashgacha of Hashem and fought on His behalf was not a reason to allow everyone to falter. Quite the opposite, the fact that the few were victorious and made a Kiddush Hashem led to the Chachamim counting this as a miracle for the masses.

3) The Possuk in Parshas VaYeshev notes that Sar HaMashkim did not only not remember Yosef, he forgot him. Why the need for the redundancy? The Zohar HaKadosh explains that in the desire of Yosef to be recalled he was punished Middah K’negged Middah with the process of forgetting. The Sfas Emes explains that the Greeks dealt with the opposite experience – They tried to inspire forgetting the Torah and so Hashem made it so that the Torah would never be forgotten. This is solidified by the Gemara’s message – that a Mezzuzah on the right (which reminds us of Hashem’s sovereignty over the world) Menorah on the left (which reminds us of Torah and not forgetting it) and a man in Tzitzis in the middle – (which reminds us about all of the Mitzvos) – a world of reminders in the life of man.

4) The people of Binah established 8 days of celebration of Shir and Renanim – What is the difference between a Shir and Renanim? Rav Chaim Kanievski Shlita explains that Shir refers to hallel while Renanim refers to other Tefillos like Al HaNissim (Raniniu Tzaddikim B’Hashem)

5) HaNeiros HalaluAl Yidei Kohaneicha HaKedoshim – Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro ztl. explained that the stress on Kohaneicha Hakedoshim is that Hashem took an otherwise weak section – Kohanim and gave them the strength to defeat the Gibborim. Ramban adds that it was in the merit of Aharon whose tribe did not participate in the Chanukas HaMizbeiach at the time of Nesiim that allowed for their central role here by his decendants. This is the intention of the Paytan who notes that it was through Kohaneicha HaKedoshim -- it was a result of their father, the first Kohein that they merited the chance to lead.

6) She’asa Nissim L’Avoseinu – What is meant by the double term Bayamim HaHeim and B’zman Hazeh? Rav Yerucham Levovitz ztl. explained that the world is run by an agent of Hashem called Teva or mother nature. It is a servant – it is not Hashem. The sending of miracles reminds us that nature is not to be served, Hashem who controls it and controls when it will be upset -- is worthy of our attention. This is a double reminder – as it was seen in those days, so too is the lesson strong today when nature continues – it is still the miracles of Hashem that keep us functioning in the world.

7) Ner Shabbos and Ner Chanukah – Why is the Halacha, which sets precedence of Shabbos candles over Chanukah candles – included in Hilchos Chanukah and not Hilchos Shabbos? Rav Chaim Yaakov Goldvicht ztl. noted that the Kedushas Shabbos comes from the light placed into the entirety of creation since the 6 days of creation. It was at that time that Adam experienced inner peace and Shalom Bayis. The Shabbos candles represent this type of peace. Chanukah candles symbolize the strength of the Chachamim to overcome a world where there is no peace. Thus given the choice it would be preferred to create the peace than merely overcome the storm that impedes it.

8) The Ben Ish Chai notes that it is a good thing to place the Chanukiah on the left side of the door and then the one entering the house will enter though mitzvos bringing the Geulah – Mezuzah, Menorah and Tzitzis. (Tzitzis, Mezuzah and Chanukah = Tzemach). Rav Volch added that the way to achieve this is to start with oneself – if one looks at himself first, he will not look down on others. Then he grows to his house (mezuzah) and only thereafter to the Menorah and Pirsum HaNes. This is how Elimelech inspired people when he would go up to Shiloh every year – He went by himself – leading from example. If one starts on the other side – it is Chometz.