Chizuk for Chanukah

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The name “Chanukah,” which simply translates as “dedication,” hints to the fact that Chanukah is a time of renewed dedication to avodat Hashem. Historically, the Jewish people have repeatedly attempted to “dedicate” a House for Hashem on Chanukah. The Mishkan originally was completed on the 25th of Kislev, yet its dedication was delayed until the 1st of Nissan when representatives of the 12 tribes brought korbanot in celebration of the Mishkan’s dedication. Nonetheless, the 25th of Kislev later was “compensated” when the Chashmonaim merited to remove the stones of the mizbe’ach used for Greek idol worship in the Beit Hamikdash and build a new mizbe’ach. [1] Additionally, the Second Beit Hamikdash was dedicated during this season[2], again signifying the fact that Chanukah is a time of dedication and renewal.[3]

Nonetheless, without the Beit Hamikdash, the prospect of renewing our dedication to avodat Hashem appears to be more difficult. How can we properly rededicate ourselves to Hashem’s service when we lack the most fundamental tool in our avodat Hashem? After all, was the Beit Hamikdash not the central object that historically defined Chanukah as a time of renewed dedication and commitment?

The answer lies in the Gemara (Brachot 8a), which states that “From the day the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, Hashem has nothing in His world but the four amot of halacha.” Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky explains that the gemara means that while there were undoubtedly numerous elements that contributed to the overall ecstasy and significance of the avodah that surrounded the Beit Hamikdash, including the korbanot, incense, prayer, and the Great Sanhedrin, the only element that has remained pristine following the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash is the Great Sanhedrin.[4] While the actual Great Sanhedrin may no longer exist, the study and application of the Torah’s laws continue to thrive. It is through this avenue that we remain capable of recommitting ourselves to avodat Hashem today without a Beit Hamikdash.

One of the psukim customarily recited at the conclusion of Shabbat states “La’yehudim haiyta ora ve’simcha ve’sasson ve’yikar” “The Jews had light, gladness, joy, and honor.”[5] The Gemara Megillah explains that the light referred to here is the light of the Torah.[6] This is a light that we pray Hashem should grant us: “kein tihye lanu.” It is a light that the Jewish people have passed down from generation to generation with the hopes of brightening our own houses and the world around us. It is with this in mind, that we are proud to present the Halachipedia Chanukah Section with the hopes that we may share in the delight of Chanukah as a festival of rededication in the light of the Torah. Chanukah Sameaich!

Sources

  1. Maharsha (Shabbat 21b s.v. Maiy Chanukah)
  2. Chaggai 2:18
  3. We remind ourselves of the need for renewed dedication in our daily davening on Chanukah when we recite the psalm “Mizmor shir chanukat ha’bayit,” usually recited before psukei dezimra, once again at the end of Shacharit. King David composed this song during the First Temple’s inauguration.
  4. Although we still have prayer today, see Gemara (Bava Metzia 59a) where the gemara explains that from the time of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, the gates of prayer are closed.
  5. Ester 8:16
  6. Megilla 16b