LTTN med xp logo The Hidden Light of Chanukah

December 20, 2000

© 2000 Light to the Nations, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved
This Thursday evening is the 25th day of Kislev, the first night of the holiday of Chanukah. This is the holiday that celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple. It was on this day that the Hashmonean priests were victorious over the Greek invaders, who had slaughtered countless Jews, desecrated the Holy Temple, and enacted decrees against the Jewish religion that were designed to conceal the presence of G-d in the world. For like other wars against the people of Israel, the Greeks were actually waging war against the G-d of Israel. Thus they forced the Jews to write on a ram’s horn, the words "We have no portion in the G-d of Israel."
 
But nothing can ever separate the people of Israel from that portion. Everyone familiar with the Chanukah story knows that when the Hashmonaim, or "Macabees" (under the leadership of Judah, son of Matityahu the High Priest, known as the "Macabee," Aramaic for "hammer") re-entered the Temple to cleanse it and renew the Divine service, they found only one vessel of oil that had not been rendered impure. Although it contained only enough pure olive oil to light the Temple Menorah for one day, the lamps stayed lit for eight days, and thus the eight-day holiday of Chanukah was established.
 
While those are the simple facts of the story, in reality there is much more. From the very beginning of creation, the 25th of Kislev was singled out and prepared as a special day of salvation, and on that day the highest and most pure Divine light, hidden since the beginning of time, begins to illuminate the world. This is precisely why that great miracle took place on this day, on not on any other day. Although the nights of Chanukah are the longest and the darkest, the Divine blessing which begins to shine during these days, continues to illumine all through the year.
 
Well before there was any holiday of Chanukah, Haggai prophesized twice on this day. And in addition to the rededication of the Second Temple in the time of Chanukah, it was also on this day that the desert tabernacle was completed. This day was designated for the establishment of the Holy Temple from the start of creation.
 
In this light, the timing of the new Washington peace talks that begin today just boggles the mind. During the very time in which we celebrate our connection with the place of the Holy Temple, during these very days of the Temple’s rededication, the Israeli "peace team" is reportedly ready to offer the Palestinians control over the entire Temple Mount. As Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said, "We need to explore creative interpretations of the word ‘sovereignty’." This, the statement of a man who apparently has never explored the meaning of the word "Jew," and acts as if he hasn’t the faintest idea what it means. These Temple Mount plans are in addition to 95% of Judea and Samaria, all of Gaza, and other significant concessions.
 
A few days ago, Shlomo Ben-Ami said "we are not sovereigns over the Temple Mount, but hostages of the Temple Mount." He, and those of his ilk, have no interest in this place, and see it as an obstacle to the fulfillment of their dream of "peace." Yet these men must also celebrate Chanukah in some way. But what is the Chanukah observance of one who does not believe in the destiny of Israel? What is the Chanukah observance of one who willingly declares "I have no portion in the G-d of Israel?" Chanukah is not about spinning the dreidel and eating donuts and potato pancakes. There is no such thing as a "secular" Chanukah. Chanukah is a celebration of the constant reality of the light of the Holy Temple. When we kindle the Chanukah lights every evening, our faith shines through those candles. This is why we are taught that the spiritual level that can be reached by the simplest person on the first night of Chanukah, as the candles are kindled, is higher than the highest spiritual levels achieved on the Day of Atonement. Chanukah is the real moment of truth, and the "final sealing" of judgment. Just as the Menorah in the Temple stood at the entrance to the Holy of Holies, each of us lights our candles at the entrance to our homes, bringing the hidden light of Chanukah, and the light of the Holy Temple, into the entire world. But that light was already waiting; we just have to kindle it. When we gaze into the Chanukah lamps we see the same light that our grandparents before us saw; the light seen by the High Priest in the Holy Temple.
 
Everyone knows that Israel is at war with the Palestinians. The Palestinians shoot at night, and negotiate during the day; even at the hour of this writing, Palestinian police forces are engaging the IDF in exchanges of heavy fire in Gaza. The Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo has become a walled ghetto; instead of removing the threat that fires upon residential apartments and children’s nurseries, the government will spend a fortune to try and bullet-proof the entire neighborhood. Is this an admission that the threat cannot be removed, or an admission that the Barak government feels that Jews sitting in their homes deserve to be fired upon? Roadside bombs, ambushes against teachers returning from school, attacks against children’s schoolbuses, the murder of a mother of six; all these have become commonplace occurrences that do not merit special attention. They may make the local Israeli news (and not all the attacks are even mentioned) but they certainly no longer receive special coverage. It has just become part of life. How can one remember everyone who has been killed? It seems that unless one personally knew someone like Aish Kodesh Gilmor, Rabbis Benjamin Herling and Hillel Lieberman, or Rena Didovsky, all murdered by Palestinian gunmen, they are simply buried and forgotten, and only their families continue to grieve as they attempt to go on living without their loved ones.
 
It was the bold Jewish leadership of Judah the Macabee which brought about the miracle of Chanukah. But today we are afflicted with immoral, self-serving politicians who abuse their positions to promote their own agendas. Claiming that he wanted the people to reaffirm their mandate to him through new elections, Ehud Barak resigned...not to sincerely express his inadequacy, or give the people of Israel another chance...but to cynically manipulate the law so as to eliminate his competition. At the close of the failed "Camp David II" talks, Ehud Barak said that he would never make concessions regarding the holy places of Israel, referring to the Temple Mount. Today, after the destruction of Joseph’s Tomb and the ancient synagogue of Jericho, Barak is ready to concede on the Temple Mount. He promised that he would never return to negotiations while violence continued; today the Israeli team is in Washington, while Israelis at home are being fired upon...this despite the fact that Barak’s mandate has not been renewed, and he has no government behind him, and no right to negotiate in the name of the people of Israel.
 
In Hebrew, the Temple Mount is known as Har HaBayit, "The Mountain of the House" ­ meaning, the great house, the House of the L-rd. As has been demonstrated time and time again, for the Jewish people the Temple Mount is not just another issue...it is the issue, the only issue...it is the bayit, the house. It is everything. Chanukah is the holiday of the renewal of that house, the holiday that each and every Jew celebrates by bringing some of that hidden light into his own home. Having a home means to have a place somewhere; to belong somewhere.
 
The Jewish people will never write, not on a ram’s horn, and not on a peace agreement, "We have no portion in the G-d of Israel." We know exactly what our portion is. We know exactly where we belong, and where that home is.
 
With blessings of Chanukah light
 
Rabbi Chaim Richman
THE TEMPLE INSTITUTE
PO Box 31876
Jerusalem, Israel
www.templeinstitute.org