Halacha for Sunday 1 Tevet 5782 December 5 2021

The Meaning of Chanukah as it Applies to Us

We have already discussed the essence of the miracle of Chanukah which was that when the wicked Greeks threatened the Jewish nation, the sons of the Hashmonai family rose up against them and were victorious. They then chose a king for the Jewish nation from their priestly family (of Kohanim).

From the time the miracle of Chanukah occurred, Jewish sovereignty was maintained for approximately two-hundred years until the destruction of the second Bet Hamikdash. It is self-understood that we must thank Hashem profusely for saving our ancestors from their enemies. Nevertheless, ultimately the Jewish nation lost, for although the Jewish sovereignty belonged to the Jewish nation for the next two-hundred years, the Bet Hamikdash was nonetheless eventually destroyed and the Jewish nation once again went into exile. If so, why must we mark the miracle of our salvation and what it is the great importance of Chanukah as it applies to us?

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that when we contemplate the miracle of Chanukah, we will come to understand that all of the Oral Torah as we know it today (the Mishnah, Gemara, and so on) exists only in the merit of the miracle of Chanukah. The Mishnah and Talmud are comprised of the teachings of the Tannaim from the days of Hillel the Elder and on; based on these teachings, we have the ability to infer one thing from another and reach conclusions regarding Halacha. However, we do not find the teachings of those who preceded Hillel in the Mishnah or Talmud at all. Hillel was the Nassi (leader) of Israel approximately one-hundred years before the destruction of the second Bet Hamikdash and, as we have mentioned, the miracle of Chanukah occurred some two-hundred years before the destruction. Were the miracle of Chanukah not to have occurred, G-d-forbid, we would have nothing left of the Oral Torah. Thus, this miracle is significant in the way it engendered the continuation of the Torah. We indeed find that “A candle is a Mitzvah,” referring to the Chanukah candles, “And Torah is light,” referring to the Oral Torah.

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