Mikeitz Chanuka 5778

Rav Matisyahu Salomon, in Sefer Matnas Chaim (Moadim-Chanukah), discusses a Mishna (Middos 2:3). The Mishna says that inside Har Habayis there was a סורג, an interwoven wooden fence, that was ten Tefachim high, in which the Yevoni Kings broke thirteen פרצות, breaches. The פרצות were resealed, and Chazal enacted that one should bow thirteen times when passing them. (The Tosefos Yom Tov notes that the סורג was the partition that separated the non-Jews who came to daven at the Beis HaMikdash from the Jews there.)
Rav Ovadia MiBartenura explains that as one would pass by each resealed פרצה, he was instructed to bow and give thanks for the defeat of Malchus Yavan, the kingdom of Greece.
Rav Matisyahu comments that the breaking of the סורג was not done as an act of conquering the Beis HaMikdash, as it was only ten Tefachim high and could be easily scaled without breaking it. Rather, it was a symbolic display of Yavan’s will to destroy any barriers between Klal Yisrael and the rest of the nations, leaving no separation of any kind. Therefore, the Chochmei HaDor enacted that anyone passing by would bow there, so that he would be performing a physical action to gain an appreciation of the importance of having this separation from the nations.
It is clear from Rav Matisyahu’s explanation of the Takana that Chazal deemed it necessary to not only use verbal expression to Hashem to counteract Yavan’s attempts at spiritual damage; they also commanded a physical act of bowing.
One explanation for this Takana is found in the Gemara (Rosh Hashana 18b). Malchus Yavan issued a decree prohibiting the mention of Shem Shamayim, and Chazal subsequently required that Hashem’s name be mentioned even in contracts. This Gemara is imparting an essential lesson detailing Chazal’s approach to the spiritual threat Klal Yisrael faced during the Chanukah period. The Yevonim sought to influence the Jewish people to become unaccustomed to mentioning Hashem’s name, and by extension to lose sight of His presence in their lives. They did not want the Jews to attribute every aspect of their lives to Hakadosh Boruch Hu. Such is the anithesis of Greek beliefs that closer resemble the theme ofכחי ועוצם ידי (דברים ח:יז), the mindset that one’s success is attributed to his efforts alone and not to Divine Intervention (Devarim 8:17).
Although they were eventually defeated, the Yevonim had caused tremendous spiritual damage to Klal Yisrael. True, the Yevonim were no longer able to enforce their decrees and the Jews could proclaim Hashem’s name freely. But Chazal saw a need to change the status quo to counteract the continuing effects of the Yevonim’s influence. They therefore enacted that the Shem Shamayim be mentioned even in mundane documents such as contracts. This step would ensure that Hashem’s name would be present even more than previously.
Chazal taught that when spiritual damage exists and one’s Emunah is endangered, the proper response is to not only contain it from spreading further, but to also eradicate it, by positively and actively reinforcing one’s Emunah.
Perhaps the reasoning for this is that once a person experiences a fall in a particular area in Ruchniyus, even if he stops himself from descending further, there is nothing to safeguard him from falling again in the same area. He must better ground himself at an even higher level.
This is the reason that Chazal specifically required a physical act of bowing when one passed each פרצה in the סורג. Since the פרצות symbolized Malchus Yavan’s attempts to damage the Jews spiritually by breaking down the barriers separating them from all the other nations, a tangible, proactive response was necessary to nullify them, similar to the Takana of mentioning Hashem’s name in contracts.


Rav Assi (Yoma 29a) asks, “Why is Esther compared to dawn? It is to tell you that just as dawn is the end of the night, so, too, Esther is the end of all miracles.” The Gemara asks, “But isn’t there Chanukah?” The Gemara answers that Esther is the last of the miracles to be written down.
Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach points out that the comparison between Esther and dawn is seemingly lacking. Dawn is both the end of the night and the beginning of day. However, even though the miracle of Esther is the end of the era of miracles, it is not the beginning of anything.
The natural order of the world is not supposed to be disturbed. After Creation, Hashem did not want the order of Creation to be abrogated. The many miracles that Klal Yisrael experienced throughout its history were only meant to strengthen their faith and trust in the Ribono Shel Olam. They demonstrated that He is the hidden manipulator of nature and history. After the miracle of Purim, the Jewish nation reasserted its faith in the Torah and came to the complete realization that Torah is their only luminance. Esther was the last of all miracles which came to strengthen Torah observance and Emunah. This miracle ushered in a period of “daytime,” a time in which observance of the Torah is born of this recognition.
The Gemara then asks, “But what about Chanukah?” Do we not find obvious miracles even after the miracle of Purim? The Gemara answers, “Esther is the last miracle to be recorded in the Tanach as a source of Emunah, as opposed to Chanukah.” Harav Shlomo Zalman explains that the miracle of the jug of oil took place behind the closed doors of the Heichal, into which only Kohanim were permitted to enter. For the populace to believe that a miracle had occurred, they had to have Emunas Chachamim, trust in their sages and leaders.
The Chasam Sofer points out that the entire miracle of finding the flask of pure oil was only necessary because of a Tumah Mi’d’Rabbanan, a Rabbinical decree that a gentile renders oil impure. Consequently, according to the letter of the law, there was plenty of pure oil available.
The Vilna Gaon explains that Klal Yisrael is compared to a “rose among the thorns.” Groups who espouse views that are the antithesis of Torah surround those who trust in Hashem, like the thorns that surround the beautiful roses. Perhaps this is why in Maoz Tzur the Chashmonim are referred to as Shoshanim, roses. The miracle was only a miracle to bolster the position of those who believed in the strength of the Rabbanan to make Takanos. After the miracle, those with Emunas Chachamim were vindicated.
All the major Yomim Tovim are presented in the Written Torah. The Yom Tov of Chanukah represents Bnei Yisrael’s Emunah in The Oral Torah, and, as such, is not included in the Written Torah. The Gemara (Gittin 60b) notes that Hashem only made a covenant with Klal Yisrael because of the Oral Torah which is passed from generation to generation, based on Emunas Chachamim.
The Rambam includes these words in the Halachos of Chanukah. “The Mitzvah of kindling Chanukah candles is an exceptionally beloved Mitzvah. It is a celebration of the Emunas Chachamim of that generation, which Klal Yisrael accepted forever.”