Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Chanukah 5632 Third Night
Chazal established Chanukah as a holiday by giving praise and thanks – "לשנה אחרת קבעום ועשאום ימים טובים בהלל והודאה/The next year they established and made [these days] holidays through praise and thanks." (Shabbos 21b) The wording implies that the praise and thanks caused these days to be holidays rather than being instituted as a result of these days being established as holidays. Why did Chazal establish Chanukah in this manner?
Our holidays are not merely a national memoriam of past events. Each of our holidays is the result of a spiritual enlightenment special to that day. The only way Chazal could establish a holiday would be to tap into the specific spiritual enlightenment for that day and draw it into the physical world. Chanukah is a time of praise and thanks to God. So, to draw the enlightenment specific to this time into the world they gave praise and thanks to God in recognition of His salvation. As a result the holiday of Chanukah with its spiritual power as days of thanksgiving manifested.
But this does not mean that we automatically experience Chanukah's spiritual enlightenment. In order for us to experience the spiritual enlightenment of Chanukah we, too, must draw it into the world by singing praises of thanksgiving to God.
What is true on a national level is true on a personal level as well. Any time we experience God's salvation – which is really a Godly revelation – we can cause that revelation to remain with us by recognizing it for what it really is – a revelation of God's great kindness towards us. The effects of His kindness remain with us to the extent that we recognize it by praising and thanking Him. In fact, the Sfas Emes teaches that we can cause the effects of God's revelation to remain with us even for the generations that follow us.
With this concept we can understand a Chiddushei HaRim. Although Chanukah is a time of thanksgiving, there is no mitzvah to eat a special meal on Chanukah. However, the Rema writes that we can turn a meal on Chanukah into a "mitzvah meal" by singing praise to God during the meal. The Magen Avraham extrapolates to any situation in which there is a doubt as to whether the meal is a "mitzvah meal" or not. By singing praises to God during the meal it becomes a mitzvah meal. There are, for instance, certain marriages where the meal may not be considered a "mitzvah meal." The Magen Avraham infers from Chanukah that singing at these meals turns them into "mitzvah meals".
The Chiddushei HaRim however, notes that Chanukah meals cannot be compared with other situations where the mitzvah status of the meal is in doubt. The reason that the Chanukah meal becomes a mitzvah through singing is because giving praise and thanks to God are inherent attributes of the holiday. This is not the case in the meals that the Magen Avraham is referring to. If the meal at a certain type of marriage is not a mitzvah, there is no special magic that occurs through singing that will turn it into a mitzvah.
The Sfas Emes explains that the Chiddushei HaRim is alluding to our concept. By praising and thanking God on Chanukah, we reveal the latent enlightenment that exists at this time. The holiday is a manifestation of this revelation. When we sing at a meal we are drawing that enlightenment into the physical. The meal automatically becomes a holiday meal – a mitzvah meal.