Chanukah — A Declaration of Confidence

Once again we find ourselves in trying times. It is extremely painful to witness another episode of galus in Eretz Yisrael, the land that should be our haven for peace and tranquility. I pray that the following insight will give some guidance and clarity.

The eight days of Chanukah are days of hallel v’hodaah, praising and thanking Hashem for the miracles “al yedei kohanecha hakedoshim — through the holy Kohanim.” They were the leaders of the army of the Chashmona’im that succeeded in restoring the sanctity of the Beis Hamikdash and reestablishing the independence of the Jewish nation. It is, indeed, a fact that the Kohanim led the army to victory, but it is perplexing that the descendants of Aharon Hakohen were the ones to pick up the sword and lead the military assault against the Greeks. The military prowess of several of the shevatim is mentioned in the Torah itself; Kohanim, on the other hand, represent chessed and shalom. Their collective task is to offer the korbanos of Klal Yisrael and act as peacemakers between Jews and their Creator. The whole existence of the kehunah is defined by kindness on all levels. As such, the fact that the Kohanim turned into warriors needs explanation.

A key function of the Kohanim is to bless the Jewish People. When discussing the significance of this mitzvah, Chazal make the remarkable statement that Hashem is “misaveh (so to speak) — has a yearning” for Birkas Kohanim. We find a similar assertion to explain why the Matriarchs only merited having children after many years of marriage. Chazal tell us that Hashem is “misaveh” for the tefillos of tzaddikim; He yearns for their tefillos.

Desire is a drive, an emotional craving that does not conform to any logical reason. That Hashem’s rapport to those mitzvos is defined by what man would understand as disconnected from the rational world, describes their essence. In the realm of logic, one gets what he deserves according to his merits or lack thereof. Desire, however, has nothing to do with this system, as the expression goes: “ein taam l’ratzon — one’s will does not conform to reason.”

Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants to have a two-way connection to His creations, and prayer is the means of achieving this relationship. By expressing His desire for our tefillos, Hashem invested in tefillah the power for that relationship to exist above and beyond the realm of the rational. The Matriarchs and the children they would bear formed the foundation of Klal Yisrael. As such, Hashem wanted their very entry into the world to be through tefillah so that His relationship with the Jewish People will not be dependent on their actions, but simply on who they are. As such, tefillah can be effective even at the most trying times, when middas hadin, the attribute of Divine judgment, seems to have ruled unfavorably. Similarly, the desire of Hashem for Birkas Kohanim gives the Kohanim and their brachos the strength to break the rules of din and bestow bounty even on those who might appear to be unworthy.

The Anshei Knesses Hagedolah established the days of Chanukah as a time for hallel v’hodaah, offering praise and thanks. The Chashmona’im’s victory came at a time when Klal Yisrael was on a very low spiritual level. Not only was the victory not the fruit of military might, it was not in the merit of the collective deeds of the Jewish People, either. The triumph came as a result of the unconditional nature of the relationship between Hashem and his people, which is epitomized by the power of tefillah. The enhanced strength of our prayers during Chanukah serves as an additional reminder that the only way for us to persevere in times of harsh judgment is with the conduits that connect us to the realm of the miraculous.

After the Purim miracle occurred, Chazal recorded the events that had occurred in Megillas Esther, which became incorporated into Tanach. Many ask why the same was not done after the story of Chanukah.

The Slonimer Rebbe, the Beis Avraham, zy”a, said that the Rebbe Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, zy”a, answered that the victory of the Chashmona’im was not one that conformed to the normal rules of warfare. Although they did fight a physical battle with strategy and weapons, their success was far beyond an upset. It was something that was not achievable according to the natural scheme of the world. Under the circumstances, the bravest and strongest warriors in Klal Yisrael would have been powerless against the Greek army. It was only due to the principle of u’verachticha b’chol asher taaseh, the Heavenly blessing for our actions, that they eventually overpowered the enemy.

For this reason, Chazal feared that recording the events in writing could lend itself to the impression that the victory was won by military prowess. While the Chashmona’im made all of the physical preparations required for a war, their success had no connection to these efforts. They indeed exhibited bravery, cunning and great self-sacrifice, but even so, their victory was purely of Heavenly doing.

The chief concern that prevented the Chanukah story from being formally recorded, continues the Kedushas Levi, was the fear that the generations of ikvesa d’Meshicha — the generations in the time preceding the arrival of Moshiach — would make the essential error and conclude that the victory was dependent on human effort and skill.

In these times, when the winds of middas hadin in the world are so obvious and overwhelming, the greatest fear is that the nature of the destructive forces in the world strike indiscriminately, not differentiating between good and evil. In such circumstances, the true and most effective recourse is the power of tefillah, with its unique ability to cut through any harsh judgments.

The mitzvah of lighting the menorah takes center stage in the celebration of Chanukah, a reminder of the Divine nature of the victory. It serves to clarify for all generations that our connection to Hakadosh Baruch Hu does not allow for any despair, only hope and confidence in His salvation.