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Shabbat Parashat Miketz 5777

Ein Ayah: Continuing the Gains of the Victory over the Greeks

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:13)

Gemara: [After mentioning the Hasmonean victory and the miracle of the flask of oil, the gemara continues:] The next year, they set these days and made them holidays with hallel (songs of praise) and hoda’ah (thanks).


Ein Ayah: This was about the spiritual expansion that occurred to stem the social expansion that the Greeks used to inject their “venom” into the mindsets of many of the weak in Israel. While one can view this as a one-time historical event, Greek influence impacted many with its external appeal, so that people could potentially be affected for some time to come. This is both in the realm of Torah philosophy and religious activity.

The sealed flask of oil, involved in the miracle, hints at the strong innermost root of belief of the Jewish soul, which cannot be destroyed. This sends its light at “intruders” and returns all to proper thoughts and actions. After a year, they saw that there continued to be a need for this divinely inspired protection. They needed what the internal power of the oil, untouched by exposure to foreign nations, represented.

The Rabbis also saw that the encounter with Greek spirit not only provides negative elements. Rather, Hashem runs the world and, especially, Bnei Yisrael, in a way that things that apparently oppose our goals actually empower goodness and truth. Thus, when the encounter left Bnei Yisrael victorious, the beauty of the descendants of Yefet could remain in the tents of the descendants of Shem (see Bereishit 9:27 and Yoma 10a). In fact, it will broaden and glorify the power of Torah and pure fear of G-d. Therefore, these days of Chanuka are appropriate for a celebratory holiday.

There are two elements to the commemoration of these days: hallel and hoda’ah. The strength of our faith that comes from the expansion of rival philosophies in a way that many are fearful it will swallow up Jewish beliefs and our triumph over them raises Israel’s honor. There are also elements of Greek culture that, when purified by contact with true Torah, present an opportunity of blessing from Hashem. These are worthy of hallel.

Hoda’ah is appropriate for the temporary reprieve from the destruction that could have come from the Greeks. There could have been commemoration with feasting and drinking, but that would have been confusing. One might have mistakenly thought that the materialism that was part of Greek culture was a positive element that we extracted from the Greeks. Therefore, when we celebrate the success that emanated from the Chanuka story, we must make sure to remove focus on materialism. The material element of Greek culture is actually something which Chazal distanced from us particularly. The positive things have to do with emotions that are honorable and useful.

Nevertheless, hoda’ah does include some material happiness, to raise a cup of salvation and call out in the name of Hashem for the grace and truth He bestowed upon us. However, the happiness on Chanuka was instituted in a limited manner. Let people not think that the physical side of Greece, which still includes dangerous elements that have not and will not be uprooted until the time of Mashiach, are that which we have integrated in Israel.

The main thing during these days is to recognize the great importance of Divine Providence, how a political phenomenon that could have destroyed us actually ended up making us stronger than we were before. Indeed, the evil angel had to answer Amen to the blessing we received, as the angel of Eisav did when he was unsuccessful in wrestling Yaakov to destruction. From this emerge both the localized salvation of the Jews of the time and, more importantly, the great spiritual salvation that is developing and will turn darkness to light. In honor of both of these together, these days of holiday were established, with both hallel and hoda’ah.

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