On Chanukah we commemorate
the miracle of the oil. But, like miracles in general, we misunderstand. We say
to ourselves, “If I’d see a one-day supply of oil burn for eight days, that’s
it, I’d be such a ma’amin, I’d never do another aveirah again.”
But that’s not the case…
I don’t know how many of you remember the Six Day War.
Egyptian President Nasser was relentlessly declaring that he was going to throw
the Jews into the sea, and nobody said a word, they all just kept quiet. It was
all planned that in a few weeks they were going to throw the Jews into the sea,
and that was it. Everybody in America and the world felt that it was the end of
the yishuv in Eretz Yisrael. And I remember R. Gifter saying that if they
would overrun the yishuv in Eretz Yisrael, “the next day, they would be
shechting Jews in Times Square.” It was such a pachad. Everybody
was saying Tehilim and fasting.
And then in 6 days it was over—it was amazing! I remember
hearing a correspondent from the BBC, as the Israelis were on their way to
Damascus, and he said that “This is obviously a fight between God and Allah,
and God’s knocking the heck out of Allah.” That’s exactly what he said, and
he said it with such a bren (fire), there was no question in his mind
that there was something there that was Divine. Until months later, nobody had
any other way of explaining it. It was a ness! They sent messages to
America to send tefilin; so many people were becoming frum
overnight, and they needed tefilin! It was unbelievable.
R. Yaakov Weinberg said: “Nu, fine, so why aren’t we all maiminim
today? What happened?”
He said that it was the same thing with Eliyahu HaNavi at
Mount Carmel. Everyone saw the fire come out of shamayim; they were all
screaming that HaShem is emes, the Baal is sheker. After that,
Ezevel the Queen sent a message to Eliyahu HaNavi: “Tomorrow, I’m going to
kill you.” Eliyahu gets upset, and he runs out into the wilderness for forty
days, goes to Mount Sinai, and he tells HaShem, I can’t take it anymore.
R. Weinberg asks, first of all, if you’re going to kill
somebody, you don’t send him a message, “I’m going to kill you, please be
available tomorrow morning at ten o’clock.” You try to surprise them.
Secondly, he’s been having trouble with Achav and Ezevel his entire life. Why
all of a sudden is he so upset?
He explained that Ezevel was telling him, “Today they saw a
miracle and they’re all saying ‘HaShem HaElokim!’ So I can’t kill you
today. But tomorrow I’ll kill you. Because by then the effect of the
miracle will have worn off; they’ll come up with fifteen different reasons why
it wasn’t really a miracle, and by tomorrow I’ll be able to kill you.” And
Eliyahu knew that she was right. That, he couldn’t take.
People see miracles in their own lives. But the effect wears
off very quickly. Miracles don’t make people frum.
Now, on Chanukah, a miracle did occur. But why? It’s not
going to make people frum. And as far as the urgency of obtaining pure
oil, there wasn’t any need for it. The tumah, which came from contact by goyim,
was only d’rebanan. They could have lit the Menorah with the oil they
Rav Lessing, who was minahel ruchani of
Yeshivas Reb Yisrael Elchanon and Rav Avigdor Miller’s father-in-law, explained
it as follows: When the Chashmonai regained the Mikdash, they saw the
opportunity for a national spiritual revival. They thought that by relaxing some
of the dinim d’rabanim (waiting between milk and meat, muktzeh, tumah),
the misyavnim, the assimilated Jews, would find it easier to return to
HaShem made a miracle just so that they shouldn’t have to
light the oil with tumah d’rabanan. It showed the importance of an
Furthermore, the message of the miracle was that the way to mekarav
people is not by making it easier, by relaxing the issurim. In that way
lies the destruction of Torah. After all, the purpose of the d’rabanans
is not to make the Torah life harder, but to preserve it. It’s like being on a
steep ledge. If you walk a little too far, you fall off the ledge. Somebody
builds a fence around the perimeter of the ledge so people won’t fall off. What
should people say, “This guy made it harder for me?” No, he made it easier
for you to remain on the ledge without falling off. That’s what the d’rabanans
are for, to keep us from falling off the edge.
And it was worth making a miracle to teach us that lesson.