December 24th 2022

30th of Kislev 5783

Publicizing the Chanukah Miracle Spreads Holiness Outside

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

On Chanukah we light the menorah next to the window or just outside the doorway, as Chazal say (Shabbat 21b), "It is a mitzvah to place the Chanukah lights at the entrance to one's home."

When the Greeks reigned, they strove mightily to force Greek culture into the Jewish homes, something no nation had done since the Jewish people left Egypt. The Greeks instructed them, "Write on a bull's horn that you have no part in the G-d of Israel." In other words, the Greeks wanted to instill their culture and the impurity of the street into the hearts of the Jewish people, with the intention of defiling their souls. Therefore, once the Chashmona'im overcame the Greeks and once again spread holiness among the Jewish people, we celebrate this miracle in a way that counteracts the damage.

When we want to light candles in memory of the miracle of overcoming this destructive power, we light the candles on the outside of the doorway. By doing so we remind everyone that the Greeks wished to inculcate us with the impurity of the streets, and now that we have defeated them, we bring the light of Judaism and holiness out into the street once again, thereby overcoming and defeating the impure Greek culture. This is the significance of publicizing the miracle.

But, at the same time, we must know that although we wish to spread holiness outside, everything depends on faith. One must sincerely believe that this powerful light of the menorah brings holiness to the street, although it is not something that can be clearly seen. The power which was infused into the Chanukah miracle in the days of the Chashmona'im still has an effect today and illuminates the darkness outside. In particular today, due to the impure devices that bring all the impurity of the street right inside our houses R"l, we must know that the inherent sanctity of the Chanukah lights has the power to purify both the inside and outside of the house.

How is this possible? Just as with the power of the oil the Chashmona'im used to light the menorah in the Beit Hamikdash, they purified the souls of the Jewish people anew, even though it was not visible to the eye, so it is today. The light of the menorah lights up the street and lights up our souls, protecting us from being harmed by the dangers of our times, lurking in the streets.

The lights teach us to do all we can to save our children's souls from the many dangers of the street. This is the meaning of Chanukah, which comes from the term chinuch, education. Chazal say (Mishlei 22:6), "Train the youth according to his way." We must educate our children, and all youngsters, well, so they will not be drawn after the corrupt culture of the street, and remain devoted to realms of holiness.

Greek culture continues to make waves even today, both inside and outside, for its essence is to increase the forces of impurity which grow more sophisticated as time goes by R"l. Today there is hardly a home that has not been affected in some way. The significance of the Chanukah lights is that they illuminate both the home and the street. They are called holy lights because of the sanctity they bring to both the home and the outside world.

Walking in Their Ways

Suffering in Silence

When a person is plagued by hardships in any form, he must accept them with love for they atone for his sins. Accepting the relatively easier hardships obviates the need for more difficult ones, R"l.

A well-to-do man from Mexico bitterly informed me that he had broken his hand. “Why did this happen to me?” he cried out in accusation. “My hands are always involved in tzedakah and chessed; why did I deserve this?”

Not long afterward, a fire broke out in his home consuming all of his possessions.

Although he was in his home at the time, only by a miracle did he manage to escape and his life was saved.

The next time he came to see me, I told him, “See what you have caused by your grievances. Had you accepted your suffering with love, maybe Hashem would have nullified the decree that your house should burn down together with all your possessions.”

One should always accept difficulties with love, internalizing the belief that they serve as atonement for all our sins. In addition, one should be careful with his speech so as not to bring even harsher decrees upon himself, G-d forbid.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

Preserving the Purity of Our Children's Souls

During Chanukah, we read the section describing the leaders' offerings at the time of the dedication of the Mizbeach. We also read the section at the beginning of Beha'alotcha describing the mitzvah of kindling the Menorah in the Beit Hamikdash, and the Haftarah is about the lights and the Menorah Zecharya saw in a prophecy.

Why were these sections chosen to be read on Chanukah?

Therein lies a lesson as to how great is the extent to which each and every tribe of Bnei Yisrael should devotedly educate their children to see themselves as a miniature Beit Hamikdash and Mizbeach. With true self-sacrifice we must illuminate their souls with the light of Torah, enabling them to resemble "olive shoots surrounding your table." Olives are the fruit which produce the pure oil for the lighting of the menorah. So too we want our children's souls to shine with the pure light of Torah and mitzvot.

When Yosef Hatzaddik lived in Egypt, he raised his two sons to be like olive trees surrounding his table in holiness and purity, and took the utmost care lest they become assimilated among the Egyptians. Particularly during the good periods, the seven years of plenty, they attained great achievements in Torah and yirat Shamayim. This is the attitude every father must acquire regarding his own children. He must dedicatedly teach and inspire them, and then they too will achieve great levels in Torah and yirat Shamayim, growing up well versed in Torah and committed to performing mitzvot and good deeds.

On the eighth day of Chanukah we read about the offering brought on the eighth day of the dedication, by the tribe of Menashe son of Yosef. The word מנשה in gematria ketana has a value of eight [4(0)+5(0)+3(00)+5 = 17. 1+7 = 8). מנשה reminds us of the miracle with the oil (שמן), symbolizing the miracle performed for the souls (נשמות) of the Jewish people who did not completely forsake their religion.

After reading about the offerings of all the leaders, we read from the Parshah of Beha'alotcha where it says (Bamidbar 8:2), "Toward the face of the Menorah shall the seven lights cast light." This teaches us a way of life: this is what true education should look like in every Jewish home. It should follow the aspect of "toward the face of the Menorah shall they cast light;" the pure souls of the children should shine with the light of Torah.

Even in Egypt Yosef Hatzaddik raised his sons in the way of Torah and yirat Shamayim, and that is why he merited being called "Tzaddik yesod olam" (Zohar I, 186a). And his two sons merited being considered part of the G-dly tribes, since they received a pure Jewish education.

Their names too attest to this. Menashe was called so because, "G-d has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's household," meaning the evil of Egypt did not cleave to him. And Yosef called his second son Ephraim, "For G-d has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering." Even in the land of Egypt, the most immoral country in the world, Yosef rose in levels of Torah and yirat Shamayim, and thus educated his sons in this holy way. Since his sons guarded the purity of the oil, meaning they maintained the purity of their souls, they were blessed to be considered olive shoots surrounding their father Yosef.

A Day of Delight

Speech Permitted on Shabbat

1. "If you restrain your foot because it is Shabbat… and you honor it by not engaging in your own affairs, from seeking your own needs or discussing the forbidden" (Yeshaya 58:13). From this verse Chazal derive (Shabbat 113a) that a person's speech on Shabbat should be different than his speech during the week, when he talks about his business affairs etc. as we will explain below.

2. Anyone who cares about the sanctity of Shabbat will try to speak only words of Torah and other necessary talk. The reward for one who studies Torah anytime is immeasurable and limitless, but even more so when one studies Torah on Shabbat. The reward of one hour of Torah study on Shabbat is equal to about one hundred and seventy million hours of Torah studied during the week!

3. One should not talk about acts forbidden on Shabbat, such as: "Tomorrow I will buy certain merchandise," or, "Tomorrow I will travel to a certain place… write a letter…," or discuss how one wishes to build a house. Even talking to oneself about future plans is forbidden.

4. It is permissible to think about these matters on Shabbat. Therefore one may say "Tomorrow I will go to such and such a place," even though his intention is to travel there, since the form of transport has remained a thought and was not expressed.

5. One may speak about acts forbidden on Shabbat if they involve a mitzvah purpose. For example, one may say, "Tomorrow I will purchase tefillin," provided he does not mention an amount of money.

6. If one finds a tutor for one's son on Shabbat, one may come to an agreement with him and promise him a wage, but without mentioning a specific amount of money.

7. It is also permissible to talk to a young man or lady, or to the parents, concerning a matchmaking proposal, for this is considered a mitzvah purpose. One may also announce that one has lost or found a certain object, or that it was stolen, so it can be returned to its owner.

8. One may not discuss how much money one owes one's workers, but one may talk about past wages. (However, the Chida writes: "One who guards his soul will distance himself from discussing this matter, so he shouldn’t come to make calculations for the future. He should therefore keep his mouth closed, and he will only benefit.") One may make calculations about spending money on a mitzvah or for charity, such as wedding expenses or how much it will cost him to purchase a certain sefer.

9. If, on Shabbat, one sees a certain object in his friend's house and inquires, "How much did you pay for it?" whether or not the friend may answer depends on the intention of the questioner. If he is interested in buying the object, one may not tell him the price. But if he just asks out of non-specific interest, it is permissible to answer.

10. Discussions that have no trace of forbidden acts, and are of no purpose, such as politics and news, should be kept to the minimum. And of course, talk that contains derogatory words or mockery, and all the more so lashon hara, is absolutely forbidden even during the week, even if it is just a few words.

For any questions in practical application of these halachot, please consult a rabbinical authority.


Principles in Service of the Heart and Rectification of Middot

What Lies Behind the Chanukah Story?

A small group of Jews, the Maccabim, gathered together for an existential war. This small group was not fighting for their lives or for their land; they were fighting for their souls.

Everyone praises the courage of the Maccabim; everyone praises their acts of heroism. And what was their battle cry? "Whoever is for Hashem, join me!"

This signifies that their war was a battle for the individual and collective souls of the Jewish people. The Greeks did not threaten our physical existence. On the contrary, they were delighted to share their lives and culture with us – on condition we give up any connection to our faith.

On paper, their war seemed a lost cause even before they set out. A small Jewish "army" against the massive Greek Empire. "Old-fashioned" religion versus humanism and modernization. And yet they persevered, and with the help of Hashem they also emerged victorious. Had they lost hope, none of us would be here today!

This is the essence of the story, and it serves as a message for each of us about our avodat Hashem; to hold on and keep going! Do not surrender. The Yetzer Hara and its tricks are an ancient empire, the communication tools of the Yetzer Hara are full of talk about humanism, progress, science and endless rights. However, this road is paved with stepping on others and trampling on their dignity. The Chanukah lights remind us of the light of Torah and its mitzvot; the mitzvot between man and Hashem and especially the mitzvot between man and his friend.

This is pointed out by Harav Aharon Leib Shteinman zt"l, when he discusses refining our middot and the way we interact with others. He further added that there were 49 days from the Exodus until the giving of the Torah. Why did Bnei Yisrael require this time? Because they were immersed in the 49th gate of impurity, and if G-d forbid they were to reach the 50th gate, it would then no longer be possible to climb out of the depths.

Harav Shteinman writes that in recent generations we unfortunately see an increase in embarrassing others, which is considered equal to "spilling someone's blood." Therefore, before the coming of Mashiach we must rectify this matter and be extremely careful about the way we treat others, taking care not to insult our friends and acquaintances. If one slights someone's honor, he may later end up harming his life. This is why it is so important to be careful with one's friend's honor and not do things that go against the required conduct between man and his friend.

The call of Chanukah is therefore – "Whoever is for Hashem, join me!" Who is the one who wishes to fulfill Hashem's will, to observe the mitzvot between man and his friend and be most meticulous about their fulfillment? The existential war of every Jew is the fight against bad middot, those the Yetzer Hara seeks to instill in us and thereby sabotage our unity. The war is not an easy one, as Rabbi Yisrael Salanter says, but we learn from the Maccabim not to lose hope. We must declare war and strengthen ourselves, both in rectifying our middot and intensifying our study of mussar. Then Hashem in His great mercy will assist us and illuminate the path for us through the light of Torah, with love and joy.


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