Thursday, December 14, 2006

Chanukah 5631 Second Night

When the Beis HaMikdash was standing, God’s presence was easily experienced. At that time it was obvious to all that God was the continuing source of all life. It was obvious that our souls are directly connected to the Source. After the destruction, this was hidden. Nevertheless, we can find this spark of holiness within us. The way we can find it is dependent upon how we perform the mitzvos.

There is a hint to this in an apparently unrelated Gemara in Maseches Pesachim. The Gemara brings several pesukim regarding searching with candles. A pasuk in Tzefania states, “... אחפש את ירושלם בנרות .../… achapeis es Yerushalayim baneiros …/… I will search Yerushalayim with candles …” From this pasuk we see that candles are used to search. The Gemara then brings the following pasuk from Mishlei, “נר ה' נשמת אדם חפש כל חדרי בטן/Neir HaShem nishmas adam chofeis kol chadrei vaten/Man’s soul is the lamp of God which searches all one’s inner chambers.”

Metaphorically, Yerushalayim refers to God’s presence. As we explained in the ma’amar of the first night of Chanukah, נרות/neiros/candles represent the mitzvos. The pasuk in Tzefania is teaching us that we can use the mitzvos to search for God’s presence. From the pasuk in Mishlei we learn that we can find God’s presence within us. In fact Rav Elazar states in Maseches Ta'anis that a person should always consider that holiness is within him.[1] This is the deeper meaning of the pasuk, “ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם/Ve’Asu li mikdash veshachanti besocham/Make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell within them.” God declares that if we make ourselves into a sanctuary for Him – by doing the mitzvos – He will dwell within us. This pasuk is not teaching us that God is in us. Obviously, He is everywhere. The pasuk is teaching us that we can experience God’s presence.

The Sfas Emes teaches that the way to use the mitzvos to discover God’s presence within us is to do the mitzvos with our entire being. He points out that נר/neir/candle stands for נפש/nefesh/soul and רוח/ru’ach/spirit. Also, the Zohar says that the gematria of נר/neir/candle is 250. This equals our 248 limbs with which we perform the mitzvos with love and awe. (i.e. 248 limbs + love + awe = 250) When we concentrate on doing a mitzvah with our entire being the holy life force within us is awakened and we experience it.

Chanukah is particularly suited for discovering and experiencing the holiness latent within us. The very fact that at the time of the miracle of Chanukah the priests were not able to light the menorah symbolizes spiritual darkness. The miracle of the oil was God’s help to bring us spiritual light once more. Just like the mitzvos in general, the Chanukah lights in particular are a powerful tool for experiencing God’s presence.

Expounding on this theme, the Kedushas Levi explains that the word חנוכה/Chanukah can be broken into two words, חנו/chanu/they rested, and כה/ko/thus. Rest represents a level of enlightenment reached after a struggle the way Shabbos rest/enlightenment follows the struggle of the days of the week. כה/Ko/Thus is the word with which all the prophets begin there prophecies as in “כה אמר ה'/Ko amar HaShem/Thus says God.” Moshe Rabeinu as well sometimes began prophecies this way. However, he began some prophecies with, “זה הדבר/Zeh hadavar/This is the thing.” Chazal tell us that these two ways of beginning a prophecy indicate a fundamental difference in the way the prophet received the message. Moshe Rabeinu’s prophecy was clear whereas there was a certain lack of clarity in the messages received by the other prophets. The Kedushas Levi explains that the word חנוכה/Chanukah indicates that on Chanukah there was an enlightenment/rest even for the aspect of God’s concealment, of spiritual darkness, as it were, represented by כה/ko/thus.

Chanukah is an opportunity for us to discover this enlightenment. By contemplating these concepts before lighting the Chanukah candles we can take advantage of this special mitzvah for what it was truly intended, to awaken the spiritual life force within us as the pasuk says, “חופש כל חדרי בטן/... chofeis kol chadrei vaten/… search all of one’s inner chambers.”

[1] Tosfos on that Gemara says that this refers to God being within him.

No comments: