Chanukah Insights

The Midrash says on the verse in Shir HaShirim: Hadudaim
nasnu raiach
(the mandrakes gave fragrance)—zeh Reuven shehitzil
es Yosef
(this refers to Reuven, who saved Yosef). Hapischeinu kol
megadim
(our doorways are laden with fine fruits)—zeh ner Chanukah (this
is the light of Chanukah). What do the dudaim (there is a dispute
among rishonim whether this refers to mandrake or jasmin) which Reuven brought
to his mother have to do with saving Yosef?

Reuven was gathering dudaim at the time of the wheat harvest.
This was at a time when everybody else was concerned with one thing only, namely
wheat, the staple food which is the basis of survival. At that very time, Reuven
was gathering dudaim, which are inedible, and whose only value is its
fragrance. The roots are used as a fertility drug, but the top part is for
fragrance only. While everybody else was concerned with wheat to preserve their
bodies, Reuven showed his sensitivity to smell, an ethereal property associated
with spirituality. That was the same Reuven that saved Yosef. When the brothers
were discussing all the physical reasons why Yosef should be killed, Rashi tells
us that a bas kol issued forth and said, “We’ll see what will be with the
dreams of Yosef.” It says that Reuven heard this, and saved Yosef. The Midrash
says that only Reuven heard the bas kol, no one else. Because they were
preoccupied with their arguments over Yosef, while Reuven was attuned to the
spiritual dimension.

Likewise, the Chashmonaim. When everybody else was occupied
with the military victory, they were sensitive to the spiritual victory over the
Greeks. We don’t celebrate Chanukah by making a yom tov on the physical
victory; but with ner Chanukah, because the primacy of their victory, a
spiritual one, was reflected in the miracle of the oil.

The secondary nature of the military victory was confirmed by
the continuing warfare after the victory of the Chasmonaim. In Sefer HaMacabbees,
it records that after the miracle of Chanukah, the goyim were incensed that we
regained the Bais Hamikdash and decided they would destroy us completely. Rome
was the heir to Greece, and they soon entered the picture. The victory over
Greece gave us the strength to continue fighting, this time against the Romans.
Ultimately, the whole dynasty of the Chashmonaim were massacred by Herod. It was
a geulah, but far from complete. And for that reason there was never a communal
todah, thanksgiving offering made by the Chashmonaim.

The return of the Jews to the Temple initiated a regenerative
process. First, they came into the dvir beisecha. Dvir refers to
the Holy of Holies, where the word of G-d issues forth from between the
keruvim
. There they brought back the Divine Presence. That energized them
for the next stage: Pnu es heichalecha, they cleared out your heichal.
They were able to remove the effect of the idol that had been installed there.
That in turn generated the power of tiharu es mikdashecha. They purified
your sanctuary. That refers to the Ezras Kohanim, where the mizbeach
was located. Then, hidliku neros b’chatzros kadshecha, they
kindled the lights in the courtyards of your sanctuary. That’s the Ezras
Yisrael
, were the lights were. They lit there rather than inside in order to
publicize the miracle.

All this delineates a process of expansive, outward movement.
The form of the mitzvah reflects this, as well. Ner ish ubeiso is the
essential mitzvah, one candle per household. Mehadrin, more candles,
mehadrin min hamehadrin
, more people lighting.

Zos Chanukah: Zos chanukas hamizbeach; they took seven
days to rebuild the altar, and they inaugurated it on the eighth day. Chanukah
wasn’t a complete redemption in itself, but an episode of survival that enabled
them to go on to struggle through the succeeding exile: Rome. For that, they
needed two things: the menorah, which is the symbol that the Divine Presence and
Torah is in Klal Yisrael and the mizbeach. The mizbeach represents
Avodas HaShem, mitzvos, karbonos. But without Torah
lighting the way, the avodah can become an avodah zara. As the
Gemora says in Yoma, they made the avodah into an avodah zara, and
literally killed each other over it. That’s why the menorah was restored
first, to light the way for the avodah. That’s why it says that a person
who learns Torah at night merits a special kindness in the day. HaRina
vHaTefila
. First there’s rinah, the joyous song of Torah, then the
person’s tefila is accepted. Because then, and only then, can he know
what is truly good for him.Without Torah, people can daven for the wrong
things, that are not for their own good.