July 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Extending the Nes of Chanukah to Rosh Chodesh Tevet and Beyond

Have you ever had the experience of meeting someone for the very first time, and then suddenly you see them all over town the next few weeks?

The same thing happened to me over Chanukah this year, except in the realm of Torah!

I was privileged to hear a pre-holiday lecture given by the inspiring Rav Moshe Tzvi Weinberg. Rav Weinberg’s topic was ostensibly a reprisal of the popular question that we ask during Chanukah, but turned out to offer a lesson to hopefully last for a lifetime.

Rav Weinberg posed the famous question of the Beit Yosef, in the Orach Chaim, Siman 670. Why do we celebrate Chanukah for eight nights when really, the miracle of the oil only was a miracle for seven nights? The first night, of course, the oil was supposed to burn, and, therefore, that would not seem to merit celebration. The Beit Yosef offers several solutions regarding the oil and the lights. Through the years, others have added more suggestions for solutions, including that of the Pri Chadash, who suggests that the extra night was for the victory in battle and the other seven reflected the miracle of the lights.

The answer that Rav Weinberg offered was from Rav Simcha Zissel of Kelem zt”l, who says quite simply that our Rabbis chose to codify the first night of lighting as a practice for a powerful reason. The Rav of Kelem agrees, that indeed the first night of light was not a night that stepped out of the laws of nature and was not a formal miracle. Yet, we light that night in order to remind us for eternity, and I will transliterate his brief words, “She-af Ha-Teva, Kulo Nes” that “even nature is all a miracle!”

Then Rav Weinberg quoted a Gemara in Ta’anit 22: Rav Chanina ben Dosa’s daughter was sad because she had mistakenly used vinegar instead of oil when preparing her Shabbat candles, and time was short, and she knew she could not get the candles to light in time. Rabbi Chanina answered famously, “He who told oil to burn will tell vinegar to burn and it will burn.” And so they did!! Rav Chanina had mastered the teaching of the Rav of Kelem. He knew that Hashem’s “hand” is behind all of nature and truly believed that even something as humdrum as the concept of oil lighting into fire was an active miracle from God. For him then, God could just as easily turn vinegar into fire as well. And God did.

This concept became well ingrained in me, because as I mentioned at the start of this d’var Torah, over the next four days of Chanukah someone in my workplace quoted this Gemara about oil and vinegar to me in a totally different context, and then when I went to prepare to write this dvar Torah, the very first source, which I opened at random, quoted this Gemara in Ta’anit!

I decided to share this Torah thought with you, to provide strength and comfort as we enter the month of Tevet. Tevet is a month where we bump into some historical tragedies right at the start. On the 8th of Tevet, the Torah was translated into Greek, on the 9th Ezra the scribe died and on the 10th the siege of Jerusalem began.

Of these sad dates, the passing of Ezra Hasofer is known to mark the end of a 1000-year period of the gift of prophecy for the Jewish people. Ezra is also known to be Malachi, the final Navi or prophet the Jewish people would meet.

As a psychologist who tries in some small way to guide and counsel individuals on the journey of life, I have many times yearned for that time when we had direct access to the wisdom and words of God via the conduit of prophecy. Learning the words of Rav Simcha Zissel charged me a mission that I hope will carry me through times where we are not feeling directly connected to Hashem, and that can become mundane and, at worst, dark and lonely.

Everything in nature is a miracle! If I can train myself to feel God’s presence with every breath, every sunrise, every time my body works the way I am used to, every time my weekly candles burst into predictable flame, then I can feel God’s hand in my life every day. Not only during Chanukah where we are celebrating with Hashem for eight nights of closeness, and not only during the times of prophecy where we could hear His voice, but every single day.

May it be Hashem’s will that we merit revealed good, and through the interplay of our human effort and our faith in G-d have a month and a life of success, joy, good health and happiness!

This Dvar Torah is printed with permission from this month’s ‘Drop of Wisdom’ newsletter, published by the Teaneck Mikvah Association.

By Dr. Rayzel Yaish,  Director of Guidance, Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles