Sunday, December 20, 2015

505 - Chanukah (Mikeitz)

One of the miracles that we commemorate on Chanuka is the incredible victory of the Chashmonaim over the Greek army. It is mindboggling how literally a handful of Jews vanquished a mighty army that numbered in the hundreds of thousands! How did they accomplish such a feat? More correctly, what did they do to merit such an overt miracle?
Rav Wolbe (Daas Shlomo) cites two statements made by Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai which shed light on this question. Just prior to his passing, his disciples came to visit him and they asked him for a bracha. He replied, "May you fear Heaven to the extent that you fear another human being." "Is that all that is expected of us?" they inquired. He responded, "If only [people would fear Hashem to that extent] - for we know that when a person sins he says, 'I hope nobody sees me'" (Brachos 28b).
In a similar vein, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai explained why the Torah requires a ganev (a thief who steals when no one is looking) to pay double the principle while a gazlan (one who steals in broad daylight) only pays what he stole. "The gazlan equated the honor of the Master (Hashem) with the honor of the servant (human beings), while the ganev gave more honor to the servant than the Master. He made it appear as if Hashem does not see or hear what transpires on earth" (Bava Kama 79b).
With both of these statements, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai sought to impress upon his disciples one of the most fundamental ideas of our emunah - that ruchniyus(spirituality) is a reality! Many people find that they have trouble praying properly. This difficulty is caused by the fact that we cannot see or feel Hashem and only the tangible is a reality for us. Our avodah is to appreciate thatruchniyus is no less a reality than the chair on which one sits.
This idea became apparent at the time of krias Yam Suf (the splitting of the sea). The Torah tells us that with the "breath" of Hashem, the water both formed into walls for Bnei YIsrael and also drowned the Egyptians. Additionally, when Bnei Yisrael stood by Har Sinai, Hashem "tore upon all the Heavens" and His reality became palpably clear as they "saw" and heard Him speaking to them via prophecy.
When the Chashmonaim risked their lives to fight a war for the sake of Hashem, they were in effect endeavoring to "make His Name great and holy in the world" (Al Hanissim). Hashem's "Name" denotes the revelation of Hashem as a genuine reality. When spirituality is revealed in its truest sense, it is more of a reality i.e. a mightier force than any physical power. When empowered by ruchniyus, even a handful of untrained Jewish fighters can defeat a mighty army.
Yet, the Chashmonaim had to first prove themselves worthy of meriting such complete spiritual assistance. Every miracle necessitates that there be a person who generates the miracle. This is accomplished when a person overcomes his natural tendencies for the sake of Hashem. Once he has proven that he is "above nature" Hashem reciprocates with a supernatural occurrence. Chazal tell us that the sea split when it saw the coffin of Yosef. In the merit of Yosef overcoming the natural (and tremendous) inclination to sin with his master's wife, Hashem caused the sea to split and disregard its natural tendency to flow evenly. Likewise, when the Chashmonaim put their lives on the line for Hashem, Hashem reciprocated with a miraculous revelation of spirituality which was more powerful than the mighty and well-equipped Greek army against whom they were fighting.
This idea gives us a greater appreciation for one who keeps his mouth shut in the midst of an argument or despite a temptation to speak lashon hara. Such a person has in effect propelled himself out of his natural state and into the realm of the supernatural. The result of such an occurrence is truly miraculous, for spirituality has no limitations. If we can ingrain in ourselves the knowledge that spirituality is the truest reality, then we will have learned the lesson of Chanuka, integrated it into our lives and succeeded in acquiring the most vital asset that a Jew can seek!

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