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Weekly Torah Thoughts
(Dvar Torah)
Shabbos Chanukah
By: Rabbi Travitsky

This Shabbos we read Parshas Mikaitz. It is also Shabbos Chanukah. As we celebrate the miracle of Chanukah and reflect upon our salvation, it is important to think about what the Jews of the time went through, and why this came upon them.

The Greek exile that was the cause of the story of Chanukah was different than all other exiles that the Jewish people have faced. In Egypt, in Babylonia, and in the Roman exile, the Jewish people were thrown out of their land, in the last two cases had their Temple destroyed, and were physically attacked. Their salvation in these cases did not come with an armed force that challenged and overpowered our enemy. In the story of Chanukah, however, things were totally different. The Greek exile occurred in our own land of Israel; Jews were not banished from the land. The Temple was not destroyed. When we overcame the Greeks it was only through the fierce dedication and determination of a few Jews who rose up in arms and defeated the most powerful army in the world. Why is Chanukah so different than the other exiles and the exit from the Greek exile so different than our exit from the other exiles?

The famous commentator the Bach writes that the reason we were punished by Hashem and had to endure the pain and challenge of the Greek exile was because we were doing the mitzvos (the commandments) with hisrashlus – or with weakness. There are times that we don’t do what we are supposed to. That is a terrible sin and requires rectification. However, at the time of Chanukah we were doing the commandments. There was a totally different type of problem that arose - when people do mitzvahs, they perform the commandments, but the way they do it is just as a matter of rote. They lack excitement, lack vigor, lack vitality, and are simply void of any real feeling. When that happened Hashem took away from us the privilege to serve Him. The Greeks were able to come and take away from us the opportunity to do the mitzvohs. This was done in Israel – while we were in our own land, while we had a Temple standing – but we just did not have the opportunity to do the commandments. Such a situation can only be atoned and rectified by turned the tables totally – by instilling a feeling and attitude of mesiras nefesh – of giving all we have, doing more than the simple physical act of a commandment, instilling our very essence and feeling into our service of Hashem. When the Maccabees fought with their lives, their dedication to serving Hashem instilled in them and the Jewish people a vitality and passion. Mitzvohs were no longer done by rote. Through their heroism we won back the right to serve Hashem properly, to perform his mitzvohs and be His loyal servants.

On Chanukah we celebrate the re-dedication of ourselves as we reconnect with serving Hashem, not only with our physical acts, but with the passion, vitality, joy and enthusiasm that we must feel within us.

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