On כה Kislev, we have a holiday called חנוכה, a celebration of the miracle of the oil. The Jews fought against the Greeks, but the Greeks ultimately destroyed the second Beit Hamikdash and stole everything except for one little jar of oil. This untouched jar of oil miraculously lasted for eight entire days, allowing Bnei Yisrael to fulfill the Mitzvah of נר איש וביתו. Diving deeper into the Halachot of this Mitzvah, we see that all Jews really need is one candle, or in this case, a jar of oil, per household. Yes, nowadays many families have their own Menorah, but the Chanukah story emphasizes this miraculous event and inspires us to remember that Hashem is on our side.
Antiochus and the Greeks, just like Haman in the Purim story, wanted to completely annihilate the Jews, so they issued some decrees, outlawing 3 main Mitzvot: Brit Milah, Rosh Chodesh, and Shabbat. What’s so special about these three Mitzvot, specifically, that the Greeks felt the need to outlaw them? Is there a connection between them? Why not outlaw other Mitzvot instead? Why outlaw specific Mitzvot rather than all 613?
A closer look reveals that these 3 Mitzvot do indeed share a special connection. In their own ways, each of these Mitzvot expresses the fact that the Jews can use nature for spirituality. A Brit Milah shows that a man has the ability to overcome his Yetzer Harah if he works hard enough. Additionally, Rosh Chodesh shows our ability to control the months and the Chagim and when they fall throughout the year. Shabbat, separated from the rest of the week, is a day dedicated to spirituality. On a separate note, the Greeks simply believed in what they literally saw before them, so they wanted to outlaw these Mitzvot out of jealousy towards the Jews’ spirituality, which transcended the simple, natural world.
Chanukah is a holiday unlike most of the other Jewish Chagim. Although we can’t do Melacha on most of the other holidays, such as Pesach and Sukkot, we can on Chanukah. Some may ask why this is the case. Given the spirituality of Chanukah, wouldn’t it make more sense if Chanukah was Yom Tov?
Shabbat and Yom Tov gives us the opportunity to sit back and enjoy everything on this earth, beyond simple nature. We can observe everything before us through a spiritual lens and realize how much Hashem truly does for us. Although the destruction of the Second Beit Hamikdash suggests that Hashem might not always be present to protect us, the oil, rather thanShabbat, opened our eyes to the fact that He really was with us the entire time. What better way to commemorate this miracle than by using oil? Lighting a Menorah for 8 nights is the perfect daily reminder that Hashem is on our side, just as he was for our ancestors.
By: Tova Bossewitch (9th) and Eliana Wolfson (10th)