July 24, 2024
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Chanukah: Temple Consciousness

Rebbe Yaakov Yitz­chak, the Chozeh or “Seer” of Lublin, was a wondrous light of righteousness, Torah scholarship and kedusha (holiness). He was also known for his ability to “see” into the non-physical world of souls and reveal the depths of a person’s inner world.

One Chanukah, a group of community leaders visited the Chozeh’s court in Lublin and shared their concern about a malshin, a fellow Jew who had betrayed his faith and was causing suffering by treacherously colluding with local authorities. The leaders presented the Chozeh with a kvitel, a note with the name of the evil moser, hoping the tzadik would recognize in the letters of the name the threat this evildoer posed, and pray and intercede on their behalf.

The tzadik gazed upon the name, and to the shock of all, proclaimed: “This Jew is me’ir b’chol ha’olamot—illuminating all of the worlds!”

As the leaders stepped toward the door, reeling in confusion, one of the Chozeh’s closest students, Rebbe Naftali of Ropshitz, noticed them. The Ropshitzer was beloved for his frank and insightful observations and suggested they return the next day, after the completion of Chanukah. When they returned and presented their kvitel again, the Chozeh let out a deep, anguished sigh, and prayed that God would spare the community from the cruel efforts of that rasha.

Seeing their baffled faces, the Chozeh explained, “When you first presented the kvitel, it was Chanukah, when every Jew is shining with the powerful sanctity of the festival. Though I saw how painfully dark this person’s actions are, his soul was nonetheless shining with the light of Chanukah, as if he were completely pure.”

***

The Talmud, in Shabbat 22a, teaches: “Mezuzah b’yamin, ner Chanukah mismol,”—a mezuzah rests on the right side of the doorpost, and the menorah on the left,” so that the members of the household are surrounded by mitzvot. Every Jewish home is a Mikdash me’at, a microcosm of the Beit Hamikdash. The tzurah, the form, of a Jewish home, especially during Chanukah, is meant to recreate, in some symbolic way, the experience of being in the Temple.

Rav Gedalya Schorr, the rosh yeshiva of Torah v’Daas, explains that this logistic placement of mitzvot is aimed at awakening “Temple-consciousness” within our own homes and hearts. During the days of Chanukah we relive the miracle, and in lighting the candles we awaken a dormant spark within. By surrounding ourselves with mitzvot—to the right the affirmation of the Oneness of God (the Shema in the mezuzah), and to the left the public display of miraculous Divine Providence achieved with the menorah—every Jew is engaged, charged and illuminated.

Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe, employed the imagery of “HaMelech basadeh,” the King is in the field, to depict the accessibility and presence of the King during the days of Elul and the Yamim Nora’im. On Chanukah, however, “HaMelech babayit,” the presence of the King of the Universe can be felt most acutely in our homes.

On Yom Kippur, the kohen gadol enters the Kodesh HaKodashim while the entirety of the nation remains on the sidelines, awaiting the verdict. But throughout Chanukah, as we relive the lighting of the Menorah, every one of us merits the experience of lifnei v’lifnim—entry into the Holy of Holies. When we light Chanukah candles, every single one of us, regardless of our standing, is the High Priest, and our homes are filled with the light of Yerushalayim, the kedushah of the Holy Land.

Rav Kook explains that Chanukah is the celebration of Am Yisrael recognizing our role as a “mamlechet kohanim,” a nation of priests, a holy nation, a literal and figurative “light unto the nations.” We are responsible for illuminating and inspiring the world with God’s light.

Let us appreciate the special nature of these days and the opportunity we have for deeper spiritual engagement, for on Chanukah we are surrounded by mitzvot, and each one of us is lit up—me’ir b’chol ha’olamot—illuminating all worlds!

Rabbi Judah Mischel is executive director of Camp HASC, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children, and serves as the mashpia of OU-NCSY. He is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau ( www.mizrachi.org/speakers ).

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