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To further understand the meaning of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, we

must answer a few questions that will hopefully enlighten us.

There seems to be an underlying connection between “shemen”- oil, and


“shemona”- the number eight. What is it? The Maharal says that words with the
same shoresh almost always have an underlying message. There also seems to be
a connection between Yosef and Chanukah. Parshat Mikeitz is always read on
Shabbat Chanukah. What is this odd connection? Often we find that water is a
symbol for torah. But, we also find that fire (Menorah) is a symbol of Torah. How
can both of these be, how can two opposites both be allegories to Torah? Lastly,
there is an idea that says that Chanukah is a holiday that celebrates the idea of
Torah She’be’al Peh, as supposed to Torah She’bichtav. In fact, from the time of
Chanukah and on, there was a tremendous growth, rise of study of Torah She’be’al
Peh.

First we will deal with the connection between shemen and shemona. There
is a famous Midrash in a Gemara- that Hashem taught Adam HaRishon about fire;
how to control it, deal with it, handle it; on Motzei Shabbat after the seven days of
creation: oil. Oils have been used throughout history as religious mediums. Oil is
often seen as a spiritually purifying agent. Throughout histories of religions, oil is
constantly used to anoint kings and queens, inclusive of Judaism. But when was oil
used for the first time? When did oil gain much importance; going from a dressing
for Earth’s first people, to a force powerful enough to control the uncontrollable:
FIRE-? On Motzei Shabbat following the first Day of Rest. Think: what is Motzei
Shabbat? -----The next day! In Judaism, each day begins at night. So oil is the
‘creation’ on the 8th day!! On day one, light, fire, was created. On day four, light
was manifested in something tangible-luminaries; sun, moon, stars. And, finally, on
day eight, light was controlled.

Next, we will find a connection between Yosef and Chanukah. In Parshat


Vayeitzei, Chapter 30, Verses 25-26, Scripture states: “And it was, when Rachel had
given birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, ‘Grant me leave that I may go to my
place and to my land. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served
you, and I will go; for you are aware of my service that I labored for you’”. Yaakov
requests of Lavan permission to return home, now that Yosef has been born. Rashi
asks why at the birth of Yosef, Yaakov wishes to return home? In Ovadiah, Verse
18, the text reads, “The house of Jacob will be fire, the house of Joseph a flame, and
the house of Esau for straw, and they will ignite them and devour them. There will
be no survivor to the house of Esau, for HASHEM has spoken.” Yosef, the flame,
completes the Yaakov, the fire. The flame means taking the fire and turning it into
a single flame. Fire is not complete without the flame. So, now that Yaakov is
complete, his fire will be able to defeat Esav’s straw. With Yosef, Yaakov will be
able to defeat Esav. When Yaakov ran away to Beit Lavan, he needed a place to
stay while he prepared for the inevitable showdown, the final clash, with Esav.
However, when Yaakov met Rachel, his plans were delayed; he had fallen in love.
And through Lavan’s artifices, Yaakov’s plans were further encumbered. But, when
he finally had had a child with Rachel, the only reason for which he had stayed in
Beit Lavan all those years, he was ready to fight Esav, and to defeat him.

In comparison to Torah She’be’al Peh, there is very little human input in


Torah She’bichtav. In order for us to take Torah She’bicthav to the next level, we
must make the Torah ours. Chanukah was the first time in history that we fought
for the Torah. It is only at that point that we begin to take Torah to that next level.
And as we all know, Torah is like light. Torah is that guiding force that we must all
live by. The Maharal writes, “All of the Divine commandments are One, a single
unity. This idea finds expression in the verse, ‘A commandment is like a flame’ –
i.e., each commandment is and individual flame. However, the Torah is not the
mere sum total of many individual flames, rather, ‘the Torah is light.’ The Torah,
which contains all of the individual commandments, is a single unified light. The
flames unite to from one great light, for the Torah is a single unit.” Clearly, the
Torah is comparable to light.

Lastly, we will discuss how both fire and water can be compared to Torah.
Torah has two aspects. One is represented by fire, one by water. Torah is
necessary for Jewish survival. So, it makes sense to juxtapose Torah and water.
Water is the basic element for survival. However, in addition to that, Torah is also
supposed to be used to guide, counsel, instruct, influence, and educate the world.
Not only is Torah necessary for Jewish survival, but it is essential for the world to be
shown the way by the light-Torah.

How does all this relate to Chanukah? In order for the Jewish People as a
whole to make the Torah serve as a role model for the world, we first must really
connect to the Torah ourselves! We must internalize the values of the Torah. Only
then will others be able to incorporate our cultural values, mores, and motives into
their lives. How do we truly connect to the Torah? We fight for it-CHANUKAH. What
was Chanukah really about? It was the first time Am Yisrael ever fought FOR the
Torah. And we, today, must continue what they started long ago. We must fight for
our beliefs, our values, our light, our Torah. Only then will we be able to defeat our
enemies, and lead the world through the darkness. Only then will we control all of
Hashem’s commandments, our flame, and live a life of Torah- light. From the fire,
Torah will emerge, a single unit.