My Chanukah (part 3 of 8)

Daily Torah Reading

Eliav son of Chelon – Zevulun

Sefirah –   בינה שבהוד

Binah is a female trait compared to the Chochma male trait. Bina is our capacity to process information and then decide what we do with the knowledge that we have.

The 36 Candles of Chanukah

According to the Rokeach (Belzer Rav), there were 36 hours of Divine Light in the world which subsequently stopped after the sin of Adam and Chava with the Eitz HaDaas. This Primordial light was hidden and called the Hidden Light אור הגנוז . Every year a portion of this same light shines in the world via the 36 candles lit on the eight days of Chanukah. This process starts annually on the 25th day of Kislev. This is hinted to in the Torah since the 25th letter of Torah, starting with Bereishis, is Light, אור.

Therefore, on Chanukah we should dress up in nice clothing for the candle lighting and consider ourselves like Cohen Gadol lighting the menorah in the Beis Hamikdash. There is a Segula that one should stare at the flame of the candles for first thirty minutes after lighting.

Talmud Succah teaches the concept that there are always 36 Tzadikim present in the world.

תלמוד בבלי, סוכה דף מה עמוד ב

            אמר אביי: לא פחות עלמא מתלתין ושיתא צדיקי דמקבלי אפי שכינה בכל יום.

Abaye said: There are no less than thirty-six righteous people in the world who receive the countenance of the Divine Presence each day. (Talmud Bavli, Succos 45b)

After the successful battle of Yehoshua conquering Yericho, calamity struck and 36 Jews died in the next battle of Ai. This was discovered to be due to the sin of Achan stealing from the spoils of Yericho. The great grandfather of Achan was Zerach the son of Yehuda and Tamar. Zerach was a twin with Peretz. The kings and Moshiach come from the line of Peretz not Zerach. Achan was jealous and also wanted to be from the Royal family line. He tried to upset the success of King Yehoshua, who was a descendent of Yosef and a direct line to Moshiach ben Yosef.

Once the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael they were all responsible for one another’s sins ערבים זה לזה שכל ישראל . This is because in Israel all Jews have a unique sense of unity. Similarly, according to the Zohar (pashas Emor), only the Jews who live in Eretz Yisrael can actually fulfill the concept that G-d is One.

For this reason, once Achan sinned then all the Jews were responsible and could be potentially punished. G-d singled out the 36 people, who were in a place a danger, fighting in the battle of Ai, to die for Achan’s sins. The deaths of this group of 36 Jews represented a decreased presence of G-d’s Shechina in the Land. Similarly, the power of 36 righteous individuals can also bring down more Shechina השראת השכינה.

Achan wrote the second paragraph of the Aleinu prayer called על כן נקוה (עכן) and he was forgiven for his sins by dying in this world. He did Teshuva when he said חאתי לה and he subsequently merited to enter Alom Habah.

This story from our first conquest of Israel demonstrates the importance of the Jews in Israel following the word of G-d. In addition, if one Jew in Israel sins we all suffer. This is a consequence of all Jews being united with the goal of serving G-d via the Laws of the Torah. Chanukah is not a story about tolerance but rather about fulfilling our national duties to G-d as one people, in Eretz Yisrael.

Matisayahu the Macabi, the Defiance of the Righteous

In Modiin, lived a righteous Cohen named Matisyahu. He had five sons who were: Yochanan called Gadi, Shimon called Tasi, Yehuda called Maccabee, Elazar called Avaran, and Yonatan known as Apephos. One day the king’s officers came to Modiin to supervise the Jews offering sacrifices to the idol Zeus in the city square. Matisyahu was present with his sons. He was urged to perform the idol worship ceremony. Unexpectedly, Matisyahu proudly proclaimed for all who could hear that he would not betray G-d nor the Jewish religion. Another Jew was brought in his stead to begin the idol sacrifice. However, before the Jew could light the sacrificial fire, Matisyahu killed the Jewish traitor with his small sword. He also killed the chief Greek officer who was present. Inspired, the Jewish crowd turned on the local Greek soldiers and killed them. They also destroyed the altar to Zeus.

Matisyahu proclaimed, “Jews, we are going out to war! Whoever is zealous for the Torah, whoever is loyal to the covenant with our G-d, follow me to faith for our faith and our Torah!” י כמוך באלים י-ה – מכבי). This battle cry is the origin of the name Maccabee. His sons and many other Jewish men ran off to the mountains of Beit El. They hid in the caves of the city of Gofna.

Matisyahu became gravely ill from living in the caves. Prior to his death he instructed his sons to be zealous for the Torah and to give their very souls for the sake of our Forefathers. He instructed them not to fear an evil man, trust in G-d and become strong in Torah. He appointed Yehuda to be the commander and Shimon the advisor. He instructed them to avenge the honor of our people, give to the gentiles the harm that they deserve, and to keep the laws of the Torah. Matisyahu died in the year 146 BCE and was buried in Modiin.

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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