"Chanukah Light: from Sinai to the Internet"

by Rena Goldzweig


The Greeks didn't set out to annihilate the Jews at first. Instead, they sought to enlighten the "backward" Jews with the "modern" Greek culture of arts and sciences, hoping that they would assimilate as their other captive nations did. In contrast to other tormentors of the Jews, they admired the Torah and its wisdom. King Ptolemy even had the Jewish scholars translate the Torah into Greek so that he may study it more easily.

However, Jews note the day the Torah was translated as a day of mourning since the Greeks felt that the Torah is to be studied, but not practiced (as do many Jews nowadays). They outlawed the practice of the laws of the Sabbath, the Brit Milah, and the blessing of the New Moon (and thus, all the festivals).

The Torah isn't just another book of wisdom - it is G-d's blueprint for the world and all that exists. The Greeks' treatment of G-dly wisdom as mundane strengthened the "husk" of Greek power and enabled them (at least at first) be victorious over the Jews.

When the Jews strengthened their Torah practice as well as study, under Judah the Maccabi's leadership, they vanquished the Greek forces, although greatly outnumbered and lacking experience.

Jewish holidays are generally celebrated with a festive meal including bread and wine, as they mark a day of physical salvation. Passover marks our salvation from bondage in Egypt; Purim marks our salvation from Haman's decree.

The mundane act of eating matza made of flour & water in honor of Passover in fact spiritually elevates the flour and water to their G-dly source. Bread & water, the main staples of one's diet, signify the revealed Torah (the 24 books of the Written Torah and the laws) which one cannot live a Torah life without.

Wine, obligatory for Kiddush, also provides enjoyment and should be imbibed regularly in small amounts to accompany the main meal of the day, just like the Kabbalistic teachings which should be learned in addition to the revealed Torah.

Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday without any obligatory festive meal. We celebrate in a completely spiritual manner by lighting candles (preferably with olive oil) and saying additional special prayers, (i.e. Al Ha-nissim & Hallel.)

It is said that olive oil be eaten only in tiny amounts as a seasoning for the main course, as the innermost mystical secrets of Torat that reveal the G-dliness concealed within the Revealed Torah.

However, as we move further away in time from the revelation of the Torah on Mt Sinai, the darkness of secular knowledge constantly increases in the world. Therefore, additional parts of the Torah are correspondingly revealed to give us more strength to combat the darkness and this "oil" an even more necessary component of our diet.

When the 2nd temple was destroyed, the disputes of the Gemara were formulated and written down, contrary to the ordinance that the Oral Torah only be learned by heart and not written down. This was on the one hand, a result of the greater darkness in the world due to the Temple's destruction and on the other hand, a new wealth of Torah light with which to combat this self-same darkness.

The Zohar was originally taught by R. Shimon Bar Yochai only to those already well versed in the Revealed torah. At the time of the Renaissance, the Holy Ari caused Torah secrets to become even more wide-spread. During the "Enlightenment" movement, there was an outpouring of Chassidic knowledge, and in fact, the Ba'al Shem Tov declared it necessary to spread the wellsprings of Kabbala ever further, until in recent years, we have merited the dissemination of the innermost secrets of the Torah on the Internet!

Rena Goldzweig, a long-time resident of Tsfat, is the technical editor of KabbalaOnline.

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