Halacha for Wednesday 16 Kislev 5784 November 29 2023

Chanukah Candles- “I Prepare a Candle for My Anointed One”

Next Thursday night will mark the beginning of Chanukah. May Hashem bestow it upon us for goodness and blessing.

What is Chanukah?
The miracles and laws of the days of Chanukah are not recorded in the Mishnayot or other Tannaic writings and we do not have a “Masechet Chanukah” as we do for (almost) all other Jewish holidays. We therefore do not find these laws delineated in the Mishnah (besides for certain minor references to Chanukah in Masechet Bikkurim about when Bikkurim are brought, in Masechet Rosh Hashanah regarding witnesses for sanctification of the New Moon, and in Masechet Baba Kama regarding Chanukah candles causing damage). Nevertheless, the primary place the Sages of the Talmud discussed this topic is in Masechet Shabbat (21b and on) where the Gemara discusses the laws of Chanukah and the essence of these days. Let us now quote the words of the Gemara:

“What is Chanukah? Our Sages taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev, the eight days of Chanukah begin during which it is forbidden to fast or eulogize. When the Assyrian-Greeks entered the sanctuary (of the Bet Hamikdash), they defiled all the oils in the sanctuary. When the Hashmonai family overcame them and were victorious, they found only one container of oil with the seal of the Kohen Gadol intact and it was only sufficient to light for one day. A miracle happened and it remained lit for eight days. The next year, these days were established and designated as holidays with praise and thanksgiving to Hashem.”

The Primary Enactment of Lighting the Candles
Thus, although many miracles occurred during that time, the primary Mitzvah during Chanukah is lighting the candles in commemoration of the miracle which took place with the flask of oil that remained lit for eight days until they could procure some new pure oil. This is why we light candles every night during the eight days of Chanukah.

An Exalted Miracle
The question is though, how could the Hashmonaim fill the Menorah with such a large amount of oil on the first night of Chanukah while intending to be the recipients of a miracle when we know that one may not rely on miracles?! The same question applies to the war, in that, how could they go out to wage war against an army that was so much more numerous than them when one may not rely on miracles?

Maran zt”l derived from here (in his Derashot) that although one should not pray for a miracle, nevertheless, when praying for the entire Jewish nation, one may pray to Hashem that He act with us in a miraculous manner, for the very existence of the Jewish nation is supernatural. It is therefore permissible to pray for a miracle when praying for the entirety of the Jewish nation. It is for this reason that the Hashmonaim were so confident Hashem would perform a miracle for them, both with regards to the war and with regards to the oil.

All of these things show how dear the Jewish nation is to Hashem. Thus, during the days of Chanukah when we praise Hashem for the miracles he performed for us so many years ago, we must likewise remember how beloved we are to Hashem and this is just as true in our generation when we enjoy Hashem’s divine protection as we dwell in a land surrounded by fierce enemies who wish to destroy us but Hashem continues to protect us!

“I Have Prepared a Candle for My Anointed One”
We must be aware that the Chanukah candle-lighting is full of deep lofty secrets according to Kabbalah. Maran Ha’Chida, in his Sefer Chomat Anach (Tehillim 132), quotes the words of Rabbeinu Menachem Azarya of Pano who explains the verse, “I have prepared a candle for my anointed one” (“Mashiach”) that this represents the Mitzvot of M’ilah, Sh’abbat, Y’om Tov, and Ch’anukah, all the Heavenly lights will shine in the upper realms, including the last Yod of the words “Meshichi” which represents the kingdom of Mashiach, which will be revealed speedily, Amen!

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