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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

Keeping the Oil Pure

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

After the defeating the Greeks and regaining control of the Beis Hamikdash, the Chashmonaim found everything ransacked and contaminated. With hope beyond hope, they eventually found one jar of oil, still sealed and untampered. They lit the menorah with whatever they had and the oil miraculously lasted for eight days.

The Bach (Rav Yoel Sirkus 1561-1640) brings a medrash that the Greeks were told that as long as the Jews have the mitzva of Menorah, they are invincible; so, they specifically were on a crusade to contaminate and destroy every last jug of oil. What is so special about the Menorah and what does it symbolize?

The Medrash in Parshas Beraishes says that the decrees of the Greeks created a ‘darkness’ – “write for yourselves... we have no portion in the G-d of Yisroel.”

This seemingly is a contradictory statement! The Greeks are not asking us to deny the G-d of Yisroel, they are asking us not to have a ‘portion’? if we are allowed to continue our faith, what does not having a ‘portion’ mean?

The Gemara in Berachos tells us, if one sees a wise man among the gentiles, the blessing ‘He Who gives of His wisdom to man’ is recited. However, if one sees a Talmid Chacham, the blessing is worded differently- ‘He Who apportions of His wisdom to those who fear him’.

When someone ‘gives’ something to someone else, it no longer retains a connection to the giver. It has been given away. When someone ‘apportions’ or ‘shares’ with someone else, it reflects a connection.

Our Torah has the ability to uplift and energize us in our service of Hashem; through our learning and practicing, and living a Jewish life, we are transformed and connected to Hashem. We share a ‘portion’ and become ‘partners’. It was this special relationship that the Greeks wanted to eradicate; sure, learn Torah, but don’t let it become part of you, don’t let it affect you. Create a barrier between yourselves and Hashem. Believe in Him, but don’t have a relationship! Declare that you have no portion!

The Menorah represents the shining light of the Torah; and this is precisely what the Greeks wanted to contaminate. But this is the secret of our survival; as long as we allow the Torah to enter, we are invincible and eternal!

May we use the inspiration of Chanuka and reinforce our commitment to not just ‘practicing yiddishkeit’ but to ‘living it’ and making it our portion!

A Freilechen Chanukah!

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