Parshas Mikeitz-The Chassidic and Kabalistic meaning of the Chanukah candle

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Inyan Chanukah….Tanu Rabanan Beis Shamaiy…”

[Torah Or p. 32a]

The Torah Or of this Parsha includes an exposition of two Mamarim relating to the Chanukah holiday that are printed in Torah Or on Parshas Mikeitz. The Chanukah celebration commemorates the miracles experienced by the largely overpowered Jewish resistance against a Hellenist offensive that desired to erase Jewish culture and heritage. The Maccabees entered the defiled Temple grounds and rededicated the altar, bringing the Temple back into service. They desired to light the Menorah that day as part of the Temple service.  However, they were unable to find pure oil that had not been defiled by ritual impurity. They finally found a small flask of that held enough pure oil to last one night, but Hashem made a miracle that the oil lasted eight days and nights. For this reason, the Sages decreed that the Chanukah miracle should be celebrated by lighting candles for eight days to commemorate the great miracle that one day’s worth of oil lasted for eight. After slight contemplation, this matter seems puzzling. There were countless miracles that occurred in the Temple era. The Mishneh in Pirkei Avos lists ten miracles that occurred on a steady basis in the Temple. The Sages [Megillah 10b] state that the Aron that was positioned in the Kodesh Hakedoshim did not take up any space. When one would measure the dimensions of the Kodesh from each end of the Aron until the wall, it would be the same dimensions as if the Aron were not present. Therefore, the Aron did not take up space in the Kodesh. Nevertheless, we do not find that the Sages established any special commemoration for this miracle. Furthermore, there was a constant miracle that occurred with the actual Menorah itself prior to the Chanukah miracle. The Sages [Shabbos 22b] state that the Ner Maaravi would remain lit constantly and never be extinguished. This is even greater than the Chanukah miracle, as a single day’s worth of oil lasted for years upon years without diminishing its light. Why then did the Sages not establish a commemoration for any of these miracles? What is the significance of the Chanukah miracle of oil that inspired the Sages to establish a commemoration specifically for it? All of this is in addition to the obvious query of why the Sages chose the more insignificant miracle of the oil to commemorate rather than then main miracle of the battle that was won, which secured our faith and religion for the coming generations. Chassidus explains that in truth the Mitzvah to light Chanukah candles is not simply to commemorate a miracle that occurred with the oil. Rather, it has a deeper hidden meaning that connects to the essence of the intentions of the Greeks and the meaning behind the miracle of oil specifically at that time, which represented their complete failure in reaching their goal. The Greeks fought a spiritual war against the Jews and desired to wipe out the Name of G-d from our midst: “Let them write on the horn of the cow that they do not have a portion in the G-d of Israel”. The miracle of the oil represents that the |Name of G-d was not erased from His people and we continue to serve Him with love and devotion.    

 

Explorations of the Mamar:

1.      Why was the commemoration of Chanukah established over the seemingly secondary miracle of oil rather than the more vital miracle of the successfulness of the revolution?

2.      What is the spiritual meaning behind a candle and what are its mystical representations?

3.      What purpose do Mitzvos serve in Gan Eden?

4.      What is the meaning behind the white and dark colors of the flame of a candle?

 

Chanukah is celebrated through lights:

The miracle of Chanukah was established to be celebrated through lighting candles. Other miracles that occurred throughout our history, such as the Exodus from Egypt and our salvation from Haman, were established to be celebrated through festive meals and foods. On Pesach we eat Matzah, on Purim we eat and drink. The reason behind the difference in commemoration lies in the type of suffering we experienced and the consequential purpose of the miracle. In Egypt, we experienced a physical exile where our bodies were tortured with hard, back-breaking labor. In the Purim story, we were threatened with physical annihilation. It was the Jewish body that was threatened by the exile. The miracle that occurred in those times saved us from this physical torture and annihilation, and we hence also celebrate and commemorate this miracle through pampering the body with food and drink. However, on Chanukah the threat against our people was not a regular threat against the physical lives of Jews but rather targeted our culture and religion. We were not exiled from our land in Israel, and the Greeks had no plan to do so. They did not care to annihilate us or force us into labor. They desired one thing, which was to destroy the Jewish identity of a G-d-fearing people who observed His commands. It was a spiritual war with all means. In the words of the Sages, Lehashkicham Torasecha Ulihavirum Mechukei Retzonecha-“To make them forget Your Torah and remove them from Your commands”. It is for this reason that the holiday was set to be commemorated through doing a spiritual act of lighting candles, as candles represent the verse of Ner Mitzvah VeTorah Or. Candles represent the Torah and Mitzvos of the Jewish people, and through lighting the candles we place an everlasting light onto those matters that the Greeks desired to destroy.

 

The oil represents the Mitzvos:

A candle contains many different parts: a wick, oil, a vessel, and a flame. It is specifically the oil of the candle that is the main aspect of the candle, and this oil represents the Mitzvos. Oil and Mitzvos contain similar characteristics, as they both contain a contradicting phenomenon. On the one hand, it is specifically through oil that a wick is fueled, the lack of which causes the wick to be consumed and the flame extinguished. Hence, we see that oil causes fire to last. At the same time, if a wick with a flame falls into the oil, the flame extinguishes. Therefore, fire cannot exist within oil but also cannot exist without it. Mitzvos contain a similar phenomenon. Mitzvos are the will of Hashem and are above the intellect and reason of creations. At the same time, the Mitzvos are the source of the Torah, as the Torah expounds on the Mitzvos. We hence see that although Mitzvos are above intellect, from them derives our Torah of intellect. This is similar to the relationship between the Written and Oral Torah, as although the Written Torah is above intellect and requires much clarification, it nevertheless serves as the source of the Oral Torah, which contains the intellectual aspects of the Torah.   

 

The Menorah represents the Jewish people:

The Jewish people as a whole, referred to as Knesses Yisrael, are compared to the Menorah of gold. Just as the Menorah, which contained seven branches, was made of a single block of gold, similarly the Jewish people are a single unit soul that contains seven branches of different traits and personalities. Although there exist 600,000 general souls that are each composed of 600,000 particular souls, nevertheless in general these 600,000 general souls are themselves included within the 70 general souls that first came down to Egypt. Furthermore, these seventy general souls are incorporated and included within seven categories of souls, and hence all the millions of Jewish souls are incorporated and included in the seven branches of the Menorah. 

 

The flame represents the fiery love contained within the heart of each Jew:

The flame of the Menorah represents the hidden love found within each and every Jew. The lighting of the Menorah by Aharon Hakohen accomplished the revelation of this hidden love within the souls of the Jewish people. It is for this reason that Aharon was called “High priest,” “escort of the queen” [Shushvanisa Dematranisa], and one of the seven shepherds, as he drew down this G-dly love to each one of the Jewish souls. Nevertheless, this love is merely a revelation from Above and it is the job of each Jew to arouse his own personal love of Hashem. This love comes from his contemplation of Hashem’s interaction with him and his surrounding personal life, thus forming a personal bond and relationship.

 

“Tanu Rabanan Beis Shamaiy…” Torah Or p. 32b

A candle represents both the Mitzvos and the Jewish soul:

In the previous Mamar, it was stated that a candle represents the Mitzvos, as stated in the verse Ki Ner Mitzvah VeTorah Or. On the other hand, we find a different verse that states, Ner Hashem Nishmas Adam, that the candle represents the Jewish soul. These two matters seem contradictory as the main part of the candle is its fuel or oil, so how can the oil represent both the Mitzvos and the Jewish souls if they are both two distinct entities? To understand the above matter we must first introduce the purpose and function of the Mitzvos in the world to come.

Mitzvos form a garment for the soul in Olam Haba:

The Zohar states that the Mitzvos serve as a garment for the soul. What is this garment? Why does a soul need garments? What does the garment affect? The explanation is as follows: The Mitzvos serve as garments for the souls in Gan Eden. These garments embrace and wrap the soul, serving it as a protector and shield against the great G-dly energy that is revealed in Gan Eden. Although the entire purpose of Gan Eden is to serve as a reward for the souls through the soul’s experience of pleasure by basking in G-dliness, nevertheless this G-dliness must be screened and shaded in order for the soul to retain its existence and experience the pleasure. A soul is a G-dly entity that has become a creation and now feels itself separate from G-d. It is hence naturally limited and defined. The soul’s main character is its intellect, and through its comprehension of G-dliness the soul reaches levels of ecstasy in Gan Eden. The G-dliness, however, that is revealed in Gan Eden is infinite and above comprehension by finite beings. It is due to this that the soul requires the garment of Mitzvos, as the Mitzvos help the soul receive a limited ray of the shining G-dliness and hence enable it  to comprehend it and receive pleasure. The reason that the Mitzvos can withhold the infinite G-dliness is because the Mitzvos are rooted in a much higher source than the soul, in Kesser, and are hence able to receive the infinite G-dly ray and make it receivable to the soul’s intellect.

The infinite levels of comprehension experienced by the soul in Gan Eden:

There are infinite levels of G-dly comprehension in Gan Eden. The soul is constantly experiencing an elevation from level to level in Gan Eden. Prior to each elevation, the soul must pass through Nehar Dinar, the Dinar River, and forget all of its previous comprehensions. The levels in Gan Eden are so distanced from each other that even the mere memory of a previous level can withhold the soul from comprehending a further and higher level. Based on the above, one can understand the statement of the Sages, “Kol Tzaddik Nichveh Mechupaso Shel Chaveiro, every soul above will be scorched from the canopy of another soul”. This means that each soul contains a different comprehension of G-dliness that relates specifically to it. Therefore, it will be scorched if it tries to infiltrate into the G-dliness experienced by a different soul, as that soul’s comprehension is above and different than his own. This is also the meaning of the statement, Kedoshim Bechol Yom Yehalelukah Selah, “The holy ones praise You each day”, as each day the soul, which is called “the holy one,” receives a new and higher comprehension in Gan Eden that causes it to sing a new praise to G-d.

The parts of a candle and their corresponding aspects in this world:

A candle is composed of a flame, oil, and a wick. The flame contains two different colors, white and black. The oil fuels the flame through the wick and cannot do without it. The oil represents the Mitzvos fulfilled in this world. The wick represents the G-dly soul of the Jew. The flame represents the G-dliness that prevails as a result of the Jew performing a Mitzvah. The explanation is as follows: Although the Mitzvos are rooted in G-d’s will and are even higher than the G-dly soul, nevertheless below they have been invested within the physical and material world. As such, they are unable to have G-dliness attach to them on their own, just as a flame cannot be lit directly from oil. The Mitzvos require a wick, which is the G-dly soul that performs the Mitzvos, in order to draw G-dliness upon it. Why does the G-dly soul specifically have the ability to draw the G-dliness, which is the flame, to the Mitzvah? This is because the G-dly soul contains within it the power of Bittul, of Mesirus Nefesh towards Hashem, and hence the infinite Divine Light can reside upon it. It is for this reason that the Mitzvos are only considered valid and holy when performed by a Jew, as they require specifically a G-dly soul to perform them in order to allow the drawing down of G-dliness into the Mitzvah. If, however, a gentile performs the Mitzvah, it’s similar to trying to light a flame over oil without using a wick, in which case the flame will simply die out. This is the meaning of the saying that, “Man makes the Mitzvos”, as it is specifically when a Jew, who has a G-dly soul, performs the Mitzvah that the object used for the Mitzvah can now receive holiness and become a dwelling place for G-d’s presence. Hence, the Jew actually makes the Mitzvah become a “real” Mitzvah that contains a connection to G-d by performing it. At the same time, what allows the flame of G-dliness to remain lit on the G-dly soul is the oil, which is the Mitzvos that he performs. Through one wick, one G-dly soul, a large amount of oil is consumed, as a large amount of Mitzvos are performed by each G-dly soul throughout its life in this world.  

The black and white color of the flame:

The flame of a wick contains various colors. There are dark colors and light colors, and within these colors there is a slight black shade. It is the burning of the wick that causes this color to change. The more refined parts of the wick give off a white-colored light, while the coarse parts of the wick give off a dark-colored light. These two colors represent two different forms of G-dliness that reside when a G-dly soul performs a Mitzvah. One is called Ispaklariya Hameira, which is similar to viewing the G-dliness through a pair of clear glasses, and Ispaklariya Sheiyno Meira, which is similar to one who is looking at a mirror. Although one cannot see through the mirror, the mirror allows one to see what is behind him. The regular performance of the Mitzvos by the G-dly soul draws a clean and steady experience of G-dliness. This is represented by the white flame. However, when the G-dly soul is invested within a body and an animal soul, which is the case in this world, then there is a coarse barrier that blocks its experience of G-dliness, similar to the silver of a mirror that blocks one from seeing the other side of the glass. Nevertheless, by performing the Mitzvos in this way, with the body and the animal soul, one turns the animal soul into Holiness and in fact gains an experience of G-dliness that he could have never attained without it. This is similar to the silver coating that blocks the view of the glass but allows the viewer to see behind him, which is a much greater novelty than simply seeing forward. The burning of this coarse material of the animal soul is represented by the black and dark flame.

The parts of a candle and their corresponding aspects in Gan Eden:

The above parable of the corresponding parts of a candle only refers to the soul as it is invested within the body and performs Mitzvos in this world. However, when the soul leaves the body and enters Gan Eden, the roles change and the corresponding aspects of the candle take on a different meaning. While in this world it is the Mitzvos that have G-dliness drawn to them through a G-dly soul performing them, in Gan Eden it is the G-dly soul that has G-dliness drawn to it through the Mitzvos that it performed. In this world, the Mitzvos are the oil that is consumed by the flame, while in Gan Eden it is the G-dly soul that is consumed by the flame of passionate attachment to G-d. In this world, it is the G-dly soul that serves as the medium to bring G-dliness to the Mitzvah, while in Gan Eden it is the Mitzvos that serve as the wick to draw G-dliness to the soul and serve as the soul’s garments so it can receive a glimmer of radiation that is comprehensible on its level.

 

Lessons of the Mamar

·         Be proud to be a Jew. Hashem gave you the power to create the Mitzvos and make them holy. Chazal state that one must honor the Mitzvos. We must honor them as they are our very own handiwork that we made and caused to become holy.

·         Contemplate the message of the burning Chanukah lights, how they tell the tale of one’s mission in this world to perform Mitzvos and sanctify the animal soul, and how they give a glimpse of the experience that awaits us in the World to Come.

 

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