Mikeitz - Chanukah
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The Power of Torah
| Rabbi Dovid Rifkind
In Al Hanissim, which we recite on Chanukah during Shmoneh Esrei and Birchas Hamazon we depict the nes of the victory of the greatly outnumbered Bnei Yisroel over the powerful army of the Yivanim.
“Giborim b’yad chalashim, v’rabbim b’yad miatim, u’temaim b’yad tehorim, u’reshaim b’yad tzaddikim, v’zeidim b’yad oskei sorasecha.” “The strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous and the wanton into the hands of those that delve into your Torah.”
Many commentators ask that while there was something miraculous about the fact that the weak beat the strong and the few the many, what was inherently miraculous about those that were pure, righteous and diligent in the study of Torah beating those that were not?
R’ Meir Chodosh zt”l, the mashgiach of the Chevron Yeshiva, answered that the second half of this phrase is not expounding on the degree of the miracle. It is rather explaining the nes. Why did the weak and few have the ability to beat the strong and many? It was because they were pure, righteous and diligent in the study of Torah.
Chazal is replete with this concept that diligence in Torah study is crucial to Klal Yisroel’s safety and security.
The Gemara (Megilla 3a) cites the following episode from sefer Yehoshua. In the nightly lull between battles, Yehoshua raised his eyes and saw a man standing there with a drawn sword. The man told him that he was a malach of Hashem. The gemara explains that the malach criticized Yehoshua.
“Yesterday you declined to bring the Korban Tamid of the afternoon and now you are being mevatel torah.”
Yehoshua asked which of these errors was the cause for the malach coming to punish them. The malach answered, “atah baasi.” I am coming for what you are doing now, i.e. the bittul torah. Yehoshua sat down and delved into the torah and a catastrophe was averted.
R’ Mattisyahu Solomon shlit”a says in the name of R’ Elya Lopian zt”l, that this malach was not sent to harm Bnei Yisroel. Rather, this was the malach sent by Hashem to fight for the Bnei Yisroel. He was telling Yehoshua that as long as there was bittul torah, he could not do his job.
Another example of this concept is found in Sanhedrin. (94b) The navi (Melachim2 19:35) relates the miraculous, overnight destruction of 185,000 soldiers of Sancheriv, who were besieging Yerushalayim in the time of Chizkiyahu Hamelech. The gemara quotes R’ Yitzchok Nafcha who explained that it was the oil of Chizkiyahu burning in the beis medrash at night which brought about the downfall of Sancheriv’s army. Chizkiyahu had placed a sword at the entrance of the beis medrash and said that anyone not delving into the Torah will be run through by the sword. They checked from Dan in the north to Beer Sheva in the south and found no individual that was not fluent in most difficult areas of the Torah. It was this remarkable level of Torah learning that brought the unparalleled miracle of the destruction of Sancheriv’s vast army.
As we celebrate Chanukah, let us remember that Chanukah is not about a military victory as much as it is about the victory of the light of Torah over the darkness of Yavan.
Rabbi Rifkind, a rebbi at the Arie Crown Hebrew Day School, is an alumnus of the Kollel. He is a member of the Kollel’s Kollel Boker and learns nightly at the Kollel with members of the community.
Rabbi Avi Weinrib
The Yom Tov of Chanukah is different from all other Yomim Tovim; whereas on the other Yomim Tovim there is a mitzvah to partake of a festive meal in honor of the day, on Chanukah, there is none. The Levush (1) explains that Chanukah is a celebration of miracles which saved us from spiritual anihilation. The Syrian Greeks had no desire to destroy physically the Jewish nation, but rather attempted to remove the Jewishness from the nation. Therefore, the commemoration of such an event is spiritual rather than physical. There are, however, different meals and foods which have become incorporated into the celebration of Chanukah. In this weeks Halacha Encounter ,we will discuss and clarify the different aspects of each of these foods.
As mentioned previously, the celebration of Chanukah does not include a festive meal. However, the Rema (2) writes that it is a “ketzas” mitzvah to increase the meal [with extra delicacies] as a celebration of the Chanukas HaBayis. The Mishkan was completed on the twenty fifth day of Kislev, and the Beis HaMikdash was used once again on this day after the victory of the Jews over the Syrian Greeks. (3) The custom is to discuss words of Torah and sing zemiros which praise HaShem for the miracles that he performed to insure that the meal is a seudas mitzvah according to all opinions. One should also add a special delicacy to the Shabbos meals on the Shabbos of Chanukah. (4)
The Rema (5) quotes the Kol Bo and the Ran, that one should eat cheeses on Chanukah to commemorate the miracle of Yehudis the daughter of Yochanan Kohen Gadol, who fed the Greek leader Holofernas, cheeses, gave him wine to drink, and eventually killed him. The custom is not limited to cheese, but includes the consumption of milk and cheese prducts as well. (6)
The custom is to eat latkes fried in oil as a additional commemoration of the miracle of the oil. (7) The brocha on the latkes depends on how they are made. The brocha for potato latkes made with grated potatoes is Borei Pri HaAdama. (8) However, if one uses potato flour or instant potato mix, as the potatoes are no longer recognizable, the brocha is Shehakol. (9) Similarly, if one puts the potatoes through the blender or food processor, and there are no longer pieces of potato present, the brocha is Shehakol as well. (10) If the recipe includes flour, it would depend on the function of the flour. If the flour has been added merely as a binding agent or to add consistency, the flour would not affect the brocha. However, if it was added to alter the taste, the brocha would then be Mezonos. (11)
There is also a custom to eat doughnuts because they are fried in oil. The halacha regarding bread like foods such as cakes and cookies is that although the brocha is generally mezonos, if one would eat a “meal” amount of such foods Hamotzi and Birchas Hamazon are required. The Shulchan Aruch (12) rules that thick dough which is cooked [or deep fried] is not considered a bread product. However, he quotes an opinion that we do consider such items as bread. The question therfore arises if one would consume enough doughnuts to be considered a meal. If an item which is cooked is never considered to be bread, then one would never recite Hamotzi regardless of how many doughnuts a person eats. However, according to the second opinion, if one would consume a “meal” amount, Hamotzi and Birchas HaMazon are required. The Shulchan Aruch rules that a ‘Yorai Shomayim’ should avoid the problem and not eat such a large amount. (13)
If one eats doughnuts for dessert after eating Hamotzi, R’ Shlomo Zalman zt”l (14) rules that one should not recite a mezonos as doughnuts are generally eaten for satiation, they are considered part of the meal,. However, if one is definitely not eating them for satiation, but is in fact sated and merely wishes to have a sweet item for dessert, Mezonos would be recited. (15)