Friday, December 11, 2015

Chanuka 5631 First Night First Ma'amar

The pasuk in Mishlei states, “... נֵר מִצְוָה וְתוֹרָה אוֹר .../… a commandment is a lamp and the Torah is light …” (Mishlei 6:23)  Just as the oil, wick and light need a lamp to hold them, so too, the light of the Torah needs a vessel to contain it.  The vessel that holds the light of the Torah in this world is the mitzvos.  The Zohar[1] explains that Shlomo HaMelech associated mitzvos with a lamp because we perform the mitzvos with our 248 limbs with love of God and fear of Heaven.  Two-hundred-forty-eight limbs + love of God + fear of Heaven = 250 which is the gematria of neir/lamp.  The Zohar is teaching us that we can rectify our deeds and limbs in this world by imbuing them with the light of the Torah.  We do this by performing the mitzvos.  Each mitzvah holds a unique aspect of the spiritual light of the Torah.  When we do a specific mitzvah we draw the unique spiritual force associated with it into the physical world.

This concept applies not only to the 613 mitzvos mentioned in the Torah.  It also applies to those mitzvos that were instituted by Chazal including, of course, the mitzvah of lighting candles on Chanukah.  What is the unique spiritual force triggered by the mitzvah of Chanukah lights?  The Chiddushei HaRim explains that the mitzvah of lighting candles on Chanukah contains the spiritual enlightenment of the original miracle of the menorah in the Beis HaMikdash on the first Chanukah.  Lighting the Chanukah candles draws the enlightenment of the original miracle once again into the world.  In fact, the Tur Shulchan Aruch writes that we light Chanukah candles in order לְהַזְכִּיר/to mention the miracle.[2]  Notice that he does not write, in order לִזְכּוֹר/to remember the miracle.  The nuance is not as apparent in English but in Hebrew, these two words are actually two forms of the same verb.  לְהַזְכִּיר/to mention is a stronger form of לִזְכּוֹר/to remember.  It implies an action that is being done to the object of the verb.[3]  Since the object of the verb here is the miracle, the Tur is telling us that by lighting the Chanukah candles we are bringing to light the actual original miracle.  Lighting the Chanukah candles is not merely a way of remembering the original miracle.  By lighting the candles, we are triggering the same latent spiritual force that caused the original miracle (i.e. bringing it to life.)  

This is why the prayer that we say after lighting the candles starts with the words, “הַנֵּרוֹת הַלָּלוּ קוֹדֶשׁ הֵם/These lights are holy.”  Generally, the objects that we use to perform mitzvos (e.g. lulav, matzah) are not considered holy.  They may be tossed once they are no longer needed.  The same principle should apply to the lights of Chanukah.  Yet, the prayer states that they are holy.  Why?  According to the Chiddushei HaRim, though, it is clear.  They are holy because they contain the spiritual force of the original miracle.

This explains the language of the brachah that Chazal instituted before lighting the Chanukah lights.  We say, “לְהַדְלִיק נֵר חֲנֻכָּה/to kindle the Chanukah lamp.”  We do not say, “לְהַדְלִיק נֵר בְּחֲנֻכָּה /to kindle a lamp on Chanukah.”  The language of the brachah suggests the original Chanukah lamp.  Performing the mitzvah activates the spiritual force of the original Chanukah menorah.

This concept helps us understand a puzzling halachah about the Chanukah lights.  A person who sees Chanukah lights is required to say the blessing, “שֶׁעָשָׂה נִסִּים לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ/who made miracles for our forefathers” even if he himself does not light.  Generally, one is required to say this blessing upon seeing the place where a miracle occurred either to him or his forefathers.  Why do Chazal require us to say this particular blessing upon seeing Chanukah lights?  According to the Chiddushei HaRim, though, it is clear.  Since the Chanukah lights contain the spiritual force of the original miracle, seeing the Chanukah lights is akin to seeing the actual place of the miracle.  This is why Chazal required the blessing usually reserved for seeing the place the miracle occurred.

Each of us has the ability to release the spiritual force of the original miracle of the menorah by lighting Chanukah candles.  Our very souls are intimately connected with the mitzvos.  A clear awareness of the spiritual effect of our physical action strengthens that spiritual effect.  Contemplating this concept while lighting the Chanukah lights is the best way to draw the spiritual force inherent in the mitzvah into the world.

[1]Zohar 1:170b, 2:166b
[2]Tur Orach Chaim 671
[3] Other examples:  לשמוע/to listen and להשמיע/to make others listen; לחתום/to sign and להחתים/to sign up others.  The first is more passive whereas the second means the person is doing something to the verb’s object.

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