VaYeishev

Torah Fax

Friday, December 19, 2003 - 24 Kislev, 5764

Torah Reading: Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1 - 40:23)
Candle Lighting Time: 4:12 PM
Shabbat Ends: 5:17 PM
We bless the New Month of Tevet    
 

The Thrill of Victory?

Chanukah means dedication. It is so called because the Hasmoneans, immediately after their miraculous military victory over the Greeks, decided to put their victory celebration aside and set out instead to rededicate the Temple.

It is also revealing that the name Chanukah is translated as Chanu Chof Hey - they rested (from battle) on the 25th (day of Kislev - the first day of Chanukah). According to many opinions, we observe Chanukah on the day after the war ended, rather than on the day of the final battle. This teaches that we do not revel in the victory itself, but rather in the positive outcomes that victory brings in its wake. In this case, we celebrate the fact that we gained the ability to practice our religion in tranquility.

Chanukah is also an acronym for "Chet Neirot V'Halachah K'Beit Hillel - Eight lights and we follow the opinion of Beit Hillel." This refers to the well-known dispute between the Houses of Hillel and Shammai with regard to the proper way to light the Chanukah candles. The School of Shammai teaches that we should light eight candles on the first night of Chanukah, on the next night light seven, and so on, in descending order. Beit Hillel, on the other hand, feels we should light our candles in ascending order, starting with one candle on the first night, and then two on the second night.

The two schools argue about the following point: Beit Shammai feels that Chanukah mainly represents the destruction and elimination of evil. On Chanukah, as we celebrate the victory over the forces of evil, we see the negative forces becoming less potent each night and therefore the need for light - which comes to counter and dispel the evil -diminishes as well.

Beit Hillel, by requiring us to add a candle each night, points out that - in addition to celebrating the downfall of evil - we need to focus on the increase of holiness and goodness as well. By saying that the very acronym of the name Chanukah teaches us to follow Beit Hillel, we echo the sentiment that Chanukah is not so much about defeating evil as it is about increasing light.

There are those who concentrate on dispelling darkness. They constantly worry about negativity and work on vanquishing it. The advantage of this approach is that every move in the right direction - no matter how small - is appreciated. Every change in the status of evil is reason to celebrate. The drawback, however, is that a person who thinks this way might become content with the joy of overcoming obstacles. Instead of viewing the whole picture and deciding where he should be headed, this person can become distracted by nickel and dime victories over unholiness. He has no motivation to reach the top; he is a minimalist.

The opposite approach is to centralize one's thought on the good. A person who savors the good in life will never be content. Without regard to how much evil has been eliminated, the person who concentrates on good will always strive to bring even more light and goodness into the world. No matter how good things may be today, human nature demands that tomorrow they be even better. Beit Hillel says that when we light one Chanukah light, without regard to how great the advantage of some light over total darkness is, we must not be satisfied - the next night we have to grow and light two candles; we have to generate even more light.

There are those who say we need Moshiach because our plight in exile for the past 2,000 years has been so disastrous. Many hope for Moshiach out of a sense of frustration with the spiritual state of our existence over the past two millennia. The drawback with this approach is that as soon as things improve, ever so slightly, the urgency for Moshiach begins to fall away. "After all, the day schools in America are so good! The number of children getting a basic Jewish education is higher now than at any time in our history." The gratitude and gratefulness for this slight improvement in the state of the Jewish nation become so great that we can become distracted from the ultimate goal - to bring Moshiach.

Conversely, the second approach tells us to look at the unfolding of goodness and blessing in the world - without paying too much attention to the disappearance of evil. True, we live in a country which offers unprecedented opportunity for spiritual growth and modern technology offers us countless new ways to learn Torah. But this can only whet our appetite even more for the sprouting of goodness and blessing that the Messianic era promises to bring. As the Yiddish saying goes, "If good is good, is better not better?" The Chanukah candles tell us that the striving for light has no limit - we must bring more holiness to the world and more people closer to holiness - until we merit to witness Moshiach himself lighting the Menorah in the Third Temple!

Moshiach Matters

The verse tells us that “Joseph was Hurad (lowered) into Egypt” (Genesis 39:1). The same word is used in connection with King Moshiach: “V’Yerd (and he will rule) from sea to sea.” This teaches that the inner intent of exile, initiated with Joseph’s descent into Egypt, is to bring about the revelation of Moshiach.” (The Rebbe, Parshas VaYeshev, 1980)

For more info, visit www.moshiach.com

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