Chanukah Questions – The Israeli Holiday?

  1. Where did the Chanukah miracle take place?

The Chanukah Story took place in the land of Israel. Every time we light the Chanukah candles we remind every Jew, that we won our battles against the Greeks and Helenists, in order to live under Jewish rule in Eretz Yisrael.

2. Who were our enemies that we defeated? Who were the victors?

The enemies at the time were the Greeks and assimilated Helenist Jews. These were the leftist or the liberal/progressives of their day.  The Helenists persecuted the observant Orthodox Jews.  The Chanukah story reminds us of the Jewish civil war between the Orthodox observant Jews (the Chashmonaim) and the Conservative/Reform/Liberal Jews of the day.

על הניסים

            …טמאים ביד טהורים…ורשעים ביד צדיקים…וזידים ביד עוסקי תורתך

The holiday celebrates the military victory over the Greeks and the spiritual victory over the Helenists. Jews, tragically, fought and killed other Jews.

3. Is the holiday of Chanukah about tolerance and acceptance of all faiths and beliefs?

No. The Helenist Jews actually killed Jews who observed Torah laws such as the Shabbos.  The Orthodox Jews fought back and killed their Jewish enemies.  The Helenist Jews took upon themselves new names such as “Menelaus” which was originally “Choni”,  “Yehoshua” became “Jason” or “Jesus”.  Some of these Helenists became the early Christians.

4. Where is the proper place to light the Chanukah Menorah?The proper place to light the menorah is outside the front doorway opposite the mezuzah. The Gemara Shabbos (21b) states very clearly, “It is a mitzvah to place the neiros of Chanukah at the entrance of the door of one’s home on the outside.\

5.  Is a Jew who lives in Chutz LaAretz, allowed to change the minhag and light outside?

No. A Jew  living in Eretz Yisrael must perform the mitzvah properly by lighting the menorah outside.  However, Jews living in chutz la’aretz are not allowed to fulfill the mitzvah in the best possible manner, and must light the menorah indoors.  This gives us another reminder that Jews belong in Israel and the mitvzos can only be fulfilled properly in Eretz Yisrael.

The message of Chanukah seems to be telling the bnei chutz la’aretz not to be comfortable in the growth of their Torah community. Not be become comfortable living in the Diaspora. They cannot be complacent and think that they are living in the new Yerushalayim. They should want to return to Eretz Yisrael prior to Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

At the same time, it tells the bnei Eretz Yisrael not to lower their guard at a time that there are misyavnim who would like to destroy the Torah community and take our land. Chanukah reminds us that Hakadosh Baruch Hu will perform open miracles, for the bnei Eretz Yisrael, in order to preserve us as long as we remain as dedicated as the Chashmona’im for kvod Malchus Shamayim.

6. Who will have children who are Torah Scholars?

The Gemarah Shabbos (23) teaches that he who is careful with the candles of Shabbos and Chanukah will have children who are Torah scholars. The Meiri qualifies that this blessing only comes to fruition occurs when the mitzvah is kept with enthusiasm and joy.

7.On which Holiday does the actual Shechina come down to our homes?On Chanukah, Hashem actually comes down to us. We learn in Talmud Succah (5), that the Shechina never goes below ten tefachim (20cm). This is why the menorah is lit at minimum height of ten tefachim.

However, the Meor Einayim states that on Chanukah G-d goes down below ten tefachim to bring us up to Him.

8. How can we see the future?

The Kav Hayashar (#96) says that if we would have Ruach Hakodesh, we would perceive the future when we light the Chanukah candles and get actual nevuah (prophesy). This is because the menorah candles speak directly to the neshama (soul).

9. Are we supposed to stare at the Chanukah candles?The Yeitev Panim states that the minhag is to sit and look at the Chanukah candles after lighting them. By looking at them, we draw down miracles. The miracles of the holidays are repeated each year at their respective times, בימים ההם בזמן הזה.

10 What special prayers do we say on Chanukah?

We say full Hallel during Shachris and Al Hanisim in the Shmoneh Esrei and in Benching. These prayers teach us that in our current era, the Chanukah miracles are perceived as the natural way of the world.

11. Why do we say full Hallel on Chanukah?

The Vilna Gaon points out  hat there are eight days of Yom Yov during the year that we do not say the full Hallel: six days of Pesach, Rosh Hashana (one long day) and Yom Kippur. On Chanukah we make it up these lost Hallel days. The last day of Chanukah, Zos Chanukah, is considered a spiritually powerful day like Yom Kippur .

12. Chanukah is eight days long in order to symbolize the power of a “miracle” which is above the laws of nature. How are we to serve G-d based on this concept?

The Laws of Chanukah are written in the Shulchan Aruch numbered 670-671; in Hebrew its . תרע-תרעא In Aramaic תרעא means a gate. During these days of Chanukah, the gates of Heaven are open and all we can go inside.Eight is above nature, there are no limiting rules. If we go beyond our general limits to serve G-d properly, in Eretz Yisrael, then we can expect miracles.Why does Mishnah Avos, compare us to animals and teach us to be strong like a lion? This is because animals act on instinct, they have no thought and not power of real choice. So too, we should be so involved with serving G-d properly that we also serve G-d on instinct . When we serve G-d beyond our limitations, then we will merit miracles which, by definition, are beyond the rules of nature. We witness miracles daily in Eretz Yisrael. According to Rav Dessler in Michtav MiEliyahu, miracles are the norm here.

13. Are we being tested in our anger?

Whenever we are being tempted to get angry, G-d is testing us. On a special day like Chanukah there is a great yetzer harah to get angry. So we need to be especially careful from getting angry during these days. In this manner we will receive lots of berachos.

When we are challenged, then we have the potential to get closer to G-d. Without daily challenges then we are not growing spiritually.

14. Why is the miracle of the oil celebrated for eight days?

The first day that candles burned as expected. Whereas, the last seven days the candles were not expected to burn, and thus only these days were a miracle?Rav Moshe taught that on Chanukah, we are training ourselves to see things correctly in order to marvel nature. Nature is also a miracle. Nature is G-d. Thus, all eight days of that the Chanukah lights burned on the Menorah in the Beis Hamikdash, was a miracle.

15. Is everything that occurs for the good?

We start reading the Parshiyos in the Torah about Yosef, every year right before Chanukah. This is to teach us that everything that happens makes sense and everything is ultimately for the good. This is symbolized by the story of Yosef. He is only person in Tanach who is called “matzliach” successful. This is because Yosef always looked beyond his present situation and realized that everything that occurs is an aspect of G-d’s kindness.

16. Who in Tanach was successful and always happy?

Yosef was always happy. When one is sad or depressed then they fall into sin.   The Kesaf Sofer points out that G-d resides with the low and downtrodden, when they are happy. When we have hard times, we must believe that it is for the good. When we are happy then G-d’s actual presence “Shechina”, is with us !

(Based on the teachings of Rav Elimelech Biderman)

ולך עשית שם גדול וקדוש בעולמך ולעמך ישראל

About the Author
Arie E. Pelta, M.D., a Board Certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA , made aliyah with his wife and 7 children in 2013. He is also a active Medical Corps Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Currently practicing in Laniado Hospital in Netanya and at Assuta Medical Center in Tel Aviv, part of the Assia Medical group; speciaizing in the surgical care of all problems of the colon, rectum and anus.
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