A Happy and Joyous Chanukah

(Torah Portion Miketz) A Happy and Joyous Chanukah

We are all well aware of the story of the Chanukah miracle. A few Macabees defeated the massive Greek forces, allowing the Jews to recapture the Temple in Jerusalem which the Greeks had ransacked during their three year occupation.

The Macabees wished to immediately restart the Temple operations, however, the Temple’s seven branched Menorah candelabra required ritually pure olive oil and the Greeks had defiled all the Temple’s oil reserves. The Macabees searched continually, even sifting through the earth, until they found a single flask of oil that retained the stamp of purity of the High Priest. This flask had only enough oil to last for one day and it miraculously lasted for eight days, the amount of time necessary to a acquire more pure oil.

What was the size of the flask? The Talmud tells us that each of the seven cups of the Menorah was filled with a ½ Log measurement of oil– approximately 6.6 oz, thus the flask contained approximately 46 oz.

The Talmud refers to this container as a Pach. The Chasam Sofer writes that there is a history behind this particular container. Before our forefather Yaacov met with his hateful brother Aisav, he retreated alone to his previous position to retrieve Pachim – containers that were left behind. This Pach of oil that the Macabees found was one of those flasks that had been saved by Yaacov, and was utilized to store the pure oil!

Since the Chanukah miracle happened with olive oil, the preferable way to fulfill the Mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah Menorah is with olive oil. It is interesting that the olive tree that produces the oil with which we perform Mitzvos, has certain qualities which reflect on the purity and integrity of the Jewish family. It is thus befitting that the Mitzvah requires the family to gather together at the lighting of the Menorah.

King David in the Book of Psalms writes, “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the inner chambers of your home; your children shall be like olive shoots around your table.” (128:3)

Commentators explain that all trees can accept branches grafted on to them from different types of trees and they will flourish and produce fruit. However, no foreign branches can be grafted onto an olive tree; it accepts branches only from its own kind. The olive tree is unique in that it is not affected by the changing seasons. It remains green and fresh all year round.

An olive tree can withstand drought, disease and even fire, and it can endure for hundreds, sometimes even thousands of years. The olive tree is unique in that its offspring shoots grow right next to it, and as the tree dies the next generation of olive shoots mesh through the hollow grooves of the tree.

Thus the olive tree represents a solid productive home, a faithful wife and generations of children following their values and traditions and enduring perpetually. With this in mind we can understand why our Kabalistic Masters tell us that Chanukah is an auspicious time to pray on behalf of our children.

In the aforementioned verse, King David also speaks of the vine in relationship to the Jewish family. The vine is also connected with our observances since it produces wine which we use for Kiddush on Shabbos and Holidays and for other observances, such as a marriage ceremony, a Bris, redemption of the first born, Havdalla etc. At these events and occasions the family also gathers together.

The Ben Ish Chai quotes a Medrash that states that a Gefen – vine, represents Israel. The vine has delicate and soft branches, yet it produces sweet and delicious fruit. So too, Israel, even though they are soft and delicate, they turn out beautiful fruits through fulfilling Torah, Mitzvos and good deeds.

A vine also has the characteristic that it cannot be grafted with other trees, thus we find that the Torah extols the nation of Israel saying, “They are a Nation that stands alone.”

Olives and grapes share a feature that the liquid produced from them is worth significantly more than the fruit it came from.

Our performance of Mitzvos by the means of these special liquids, signifies the remarkable potential that we have all been invested with, namely our G-d given intellect, talents and abilities, which when used properly have the capacity to generate beneficial, valuable, significant and uplifting results.

Wishing you a most uplifting, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos and a Happy Chanukah!

Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family