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Shabbat Parashat Miketz 5773

Parashat Hashavua: A Salvation of the House and by the House

Harav Shaul Yisraeli based on Meorot Lachanuka, pp. 3-4

The mitzva of Chanuka candles is different from other mitzvot, which are either mitzvot that devolve on the individual or those that devolve on the community. Every Jewish adult male is required to wear tefillin, and every Jew is required to keep Shabbat. The same is true of most mitzvot. The nation as a whole has several mitzvot, including, prominently, building the Beit Hamikdash. The mitzva of Chanuka candles is an exception. It is not [according to the basic level of obligation] a mitzva of the individual or of the nation, but – of the family – “a light for a man and his household” (Shabbat 21b).

This is appropriate, as the miracle was revealed through the efforts that were made by family units. There were Yochanan the Kohen Gadol and his sons, Chana and her seven sons, and in general, the righteous people and their families. There was something new; not a state or a country but the “house of Israel.”

At the time of the story of Chanuka, there had not been an independent Jewish state since the time of the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash. The second Beit Hamikdash had been built under the dominion of foreign powers, and that’s the way it remained until the time of Antiochus.  We met the enemy not as a state and not even as a small nation at war. Rather, we took on the enemy as a group of families.

Since the people lacked structure, matters deteriorated. Many, many people chose the easy path, giving up the ability to keep to the nation’s independent values, laws, and special status. If not for the miracle of sons and daughters clinging to the values held dear by their families, despite the confusion that the darkness of the mind spread, we would have been lost. Somehow there lay a hidden, ancient candle, ready to be lit into a large fire. Fathers and sons together called out, “Whoever is for Hashem, should rally by me” (based on Shemot 32:27).

Corresponding to this period, the pasuk that comes to mind is “Hashem shall add on to you, onto you and onto your children” (Tehilim 115:14). “He shall bless the House of Israel, He shall bless the House of Aharon, He shall bless those who fear Hashem, the small along with the great” (ibid. 12-13).

From that time on we learned that wherever there is a Jewish home, there is continuity.

Beit Shammai ruled: “[the number of candles] continues in decreasing order” (Shabbat 21b). This epitomizes the miracle. The independent state that was established at that time did not last forever, but just 200 years. Rather, it was the family unit that continued to live on independently.

Beit Hillel ruled that we must increase. True, while the family can exist on its own, when it needs to, one should not suffice with that. [We should look to build up the national unit]. For that reason, we light on the doorway of the house on the outside.

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