Shabbos Chanukah :
A Modern Day Miracle

Rabbi Dovid Oppenheimer


The story of Chanukah is well known, but little understood. On Chanukah we celebrate our victory over the Greeks and the rededication of the Bais Hamikdash. But why is this cause for celebration? After all, the Romans eventually destroyed the Temple and we are now in exile, so what was accomplished by defeating the Greeks?

The commentators see a much deeper meaning in the story of Chanukah in that the Greeks represented the very opposite of what Judaism stands for.

The Greeks were descendants of Yefas the son of Noach. Yefas means beauty.
The Greek culture was all about physical pleasure and a superficial outlook on life. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Jews are descendants of Noach's son, Shem, which means name. One's name represents his true essence, paralleling the Jewish worldview which embodies depth and spirituality.

When the Greeks conquered Eretz Yisrael, they brought with them their superficial cultures and beliefs and succeeded in influencing the vast majority of Jews. It was only a handful of Jews who remained loyal to the Torah,led by the Chashmonaim. Against all odds, this group prevailed.
But, beyond their military victory, in what way did the Jews emerge victorious?

The answer lies in the miracle of Chanukah. After the Temple had been ransacked, only one jar of pure oil remained. Halachically, the Jews were permitted to use impure oil, however Hashem put it in their hearts to use only pure oil at this very important time and leave the rest up to Him.

The message is clear. The menorah represents Torah and as long as Torah remains pure, it will grow. The Chashmonaim were able to preserve the Torah in its most pristine form and, as a result, a new generation of Torah-true Jews descended from them, guaranteeing the continuity of Klal Yisrael.

When we light the Chanukah menorah and increase the light every night, the spirit of Torah enters our hearts, and as the Gemorah (Shabbos,23b) says, "One who is habitual in lighting [Shabbos and Chanukah] candles will merit to have children who are talmidei chochamim."

In our days we witnessed how a handful of talmidei chachamim emerged from the ashes of Europe, and, led by Rav Aharon Kotler ZT"L, succeeded in replanting Torah in its purest sense on these shores. Their success was a result of their unwillingness to compromise the purity of their message.

They are an example of a modern day "jug of oil'' through which Torah was rekindled.


Rabbi Oppenheimer is an alumnus of the Chicago Community Kollel.

Parsha Encounters is coordinated by Rabbi Zvi Feiner and edited by Barbara Horwitz.



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