Wednesday, January 18, 2012

306 - Chanuka

On Chanuka we read the end of Parshas Naso which describes the korbanos brought by the Nesi'im at the time of the dedication of the Mishkan. Immediately thereafter, in the beginning of Parshas Beha'aloshcha, Hashem commands Aharon regarding the lighting of the Menorah. Rashi (Bamidbar 8, 2) questions the juxtaposition of these two parshios, and he explains (citing Chazal) that Aharon was distraught that neither he nor any member of his sheivet took part in the dedication of the Mishkan. Hashem consoled Aharon by telling him that his service was greater than the service offered by the Nesi'im for he will prepare and light the Menorah in the Mishkan.

The Ramban (ibid.) also cites this Chazal, but he explains it in another light. The consolation offered to Aharon was not referring to his lighting the Menorah in the Mishkan. Rather, it referred to the lighting of the Menorah that takes place on Chanukah each and every year. In contrast to korbanos (as those offered by the Nesi'im) which can only be brought when the Bais Hamikdosh is standing, the lighting of the Chanuka menorah is not bound to a specific era. It was a consolation for Aharon, since it was his offspring, the Chashmona'im, who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Bnei Yisrael, and it is in their merit that we have the mitzvah of lighting the Chanuka menorah.

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) elaborates on the Ramban's explanation and thereby renders Chazal's words more relevant for each and every one of us. The beginning of Sefer Bamidbar revolves entirely around the concept of Hashgacha Pratis - Divine Providence, and the Parshios describe how Hashem cares about every individual. Bamidbar begins with counting each person in Bnei Yisroel, and continues with the laws of Nazir whereby anyone can attain a level similar to the Kohein Gadol, and thereafter details the korbanos brought by the Nesi'im. The Nesi'im succeeded in achieving the pinnacle of Divine Providence, for they initiated a present to Hashem, and He accepted their korbanos. Moreover, He delighted in their offerings to the extent that He repeated each aspect of the twelve Nesi'im's offerings despite the fact that they were all identical.

Aharon's distress stemmed from this lack of Divine Providence that had been achieved by the Nesi'im. In response to this distress, Hashem consoled Aharon that his offspring would attain a similar level of Hashgacha Pratis. A handful of individuals were prepared to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Hashem, and succeeded in bringing salvation to the entire Bnei Yisroel. Moreover, Hashem delighted in their self sacrifice to the extent that a new mitzvah was given to Bnei Yisrael: the lighting of the Chanuka menorah.

This is but one of the lessons to be learned from the Yom Tov of Chanuka: how the initiation of a few or even a single individual can garner such awesome rewards. However, we must take the initiative to reach for a higher spiritual level. In response to our actions we can look forward to Hashem responding with a greater level of Hashgacha Pratis.

A Freilichin Chanuka!

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