Start them off Right


The Chashmonaim after having vanquished the Greeks, entered into the Beis Hamikdash searching for oil with which to light the Menorah. After much hunting around, they managed to find but one jug of uncontaminated oil. This small measure carried with it the presumed potential of kindling the Menorah for just that first night, the 25th of Kislev, this wasn’t to be, miraculously it lasted for another seven nights until they could obtain pure oil.


The Pnei Yehoshua asks a Halachaic query, which at it’s very heart, questions why the miracle was necessary. There is a Halachic principle that when the majority of people in a state of spiritual uncleanness, the laws of purity are suspended, and the Service continues in an impure state. Therefore, asks the Pnei Yehoshua, let us assume that the miracle would have not transpired and the oil would have burned for just a single night, under the circumstances the Menorah could have been fueled with impure oil, if so why did Hashem assist in an unnatural manner causing the oil burned for eight days.


We may suggest an answer by examining the intriguing name of this festival – Chanukah. While there are allegoric allusions in the name, the plain and simple meaning of the word Chanukah is a derivative of ‘Chinuch’ which translates as inauguration. Which leads us to ponder that why is “inauguration” the most apt description to capture this festival, why refer to only the commencement of the Temple Service, additionally it’s only remotely related to the military victory, and thirdly this name doesn’t seem to factor the incredible finding and kindling of the oil.

There is a famous Jewish truism: induction of an item, will strongly characterize the object. Change is possible, but the initial manner in which something is treated is all pervasive, for example a shelf designated for trinkets will not be switched to supporting and storing books, or vice-versa. Kabblasitcally if one wishes to understand the essence of a particular Hebrew letter, one should scrutinize the first time in the Torah that this particular letter appears at the beginning of a word.

After the Chashmonaim triumphed over the Greeks it was legally permissible to perform the service with contaminated oil, but this would have meant recommencement of the Avodah on the wrong foot. For while it is true Tumah is suspended when the people are unclean, this is far from the ideal, thus the whole Beis Hamikdash would have started out imperfectly and this imperfection would forever typify the continuing Temple Service.

The miracle of the oil ensured that the Avodah was “inaugurated” with purity; this was the reason why Hashem provided the miracle, not for Halachic reasons, but for the spirit of the law. This is then the reason why they selected the name Chanukah – Inauguration –  because it speaks to the purpose of the miracle that was wrought. The point of the phenomenon carries greater implications than the sensation. Chanukah is the motive for the miracle.


Never is this more important with young children, every exposure with them is Chinuch.


Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein, Rosh Yeshiva in an Eastern European hamlet, worked tirelessly to build up his Yeshiva. Despite his best efforts, high caliber students were not attracted to or retained by his institution. The beginning of Rabbi Moshe’s yeshiva seemed doomed to be its finish.

Rabbi Moshe decided to consult with the eminent sage, Rabbi Chaim Volozhin. As travel in the early 1800’s was so difficult, Rabbi Moshe was relieved to discover that Rabbi Chaim would be visiting nearby. Having arrived in the town where Rabbi Chaim was staying, Rabbi Moshe joined the seemingly endless line of petitioners. Finally, it was Rabbi Moshe’s turn to put his questions before this great man. Rabbi Chaim listened closely as Rabbi Moshe poured out his tale of woe. Then he sat back and pondered on the problem for a while.

“Does your Yeshiva have its own building?” Rabbi Chaim asked. Rabbi Moshe answered in the affirmative, adding that said edifice was indeed beautiful.

“How did you prepare to lay the cornerstone of the building?” queried Rabbi Chaim.

“With great joy and excitement. We spared no expense,” was the response “and invited many gedolim, who were honored with recitations of Tehillim, delivering Divrei Torah, and actually laying the bricks of the foundation. The event was marked by its strong flavor of honor for the Torah.” Reb Moshe was confident that Rabbi Chaim would be impressed with this, and so was surprised when the latter slowly shook his head.

“Let me tell you how we prepared to build the Yeshiva in Volozhin. I went to the grounds where the building would yet stand, and poured my heart out in prayer. My supplications for the success of the students and the yeshiva were not limited to the spoken word – I cried too. With tears I consecrated the soil, and with tears I begged Hashem to realize my dreams for honor of the Torah, in fact for the glory of Hashem Himself. It is because the earth was soaked with weeping that the Yeshiva has been so successful.”

Rabbi Moshe listened and left Rabbi Chaim uplifted and humbled by the realization that he had it all wrong – a yeshiva does not need showy gatherings but quiet sobs.

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