Thursday, December 2, 2010

253 - Chanukah

Chazal tell us (Shabbos 23b), "One who regularly lights candles will have sons who are talmidei chachomim, he who is careful with mezuzah will merit a nice house, he who is careful with tzitzis will merit a beautiful garment and he who is careful to recite the Kiddush will merit to fill up barrels with wine."

Rav Wolbe notes that when one performs a mitzvah properly, the reward is allocated in the object with which the mitzvah was performed. If so, he asks, shouldn't the reward for being vigilant regarding the mitzvah of lighting candles be to merit a beautiful menorah? The answer is that the mitzvah of Chanukah is not merely the physical act of lighting the candles, but we are also obligated to recognize the awesome spiritual light of the Torah. Performance of this mitzvah brings in its wake a reward similar to the rest of the mitzvos mentioned above: one who perceives the greatness of the light of the Torah will merit children who will be endowed with this spiritual light.

In essence, it was against this perception that the Hellenists were fighting at the time of the Chanukah miracle. They wished to make us "forget the Torah and stray from the statutes of [Hashem's] will." They wanted to prove that Greek wisdom is no different, or even better, than the wisdom of the Torah. Hence the victory of the war waged against this Hellenistic approach was in essence a strengthening of our knowledge of the superiority of the wisdom of the Torah.

What is so unique about "chochmas haTorah?" Chazal tell us that chochmas haTorah resembles in a small manner Hashem's unfathomable wisdom. It takes the greatness of Hashem to be able to encapsulate such wisdom in the Torah which discusses seemingly mundane topics such as laws pertaining to neighbors and damages. One who toils in the study of Torah succeeds in cleaving to the Source of the wisdom - a Source which is not governed by nature. Thus, the lives of Torah Jews aren't subject to the laws of nature. Consequently, it is a common occurrence that even for those for whom the doctors have given up all hope, to, nevertheless, recover after heartfelt tefillos offered on their behalf. The Torah's wisdom declares, "Even when there is a sword upon a man's neck, he should not refrain from davening for Hashem's compassion."

This is a fundamental difference between the wisdom of the Torah and Greek wisdom. Aristotle and his disciples only believed in that which they were able to comprehend. As the Rambam writes, had Aristotle not known how a baby was born and someone described how the fetus lives for nine months inside its mother without breathing or eating, he would have written it off as ludicrous, for such living conditions are beyond his comprehension which was limited by the laws of nature. Torah on the other hand, defies all laws of nature, for its source is the Creator of nature itself.

Chanukah is a time to set our perceptions straight. Torah isn't just a topic of study like any other wisdom. Torah is the study of Hashem's wisdom, and toiling to understand what is written within it brings a person to spiritual levels unfathomable, and certainly unattainable, by those who study only other wisdoms.

A Freilichen Lichtege Chanukah!

1 comment:

Noam Elbaz said...

Bais HaMussar,

Thank you for continually writing meaningful and inspiring Torah from Moreinu Zatza"l.

Happy Chanukah