Rabbi Benjamin Yudin
Rabbi Benjamin Yudin

Chanukah Cleaning

The primary observance of Chanukah is with the recitation of Hallel and Hoda'ah, and the recitation of Al Hanissim (Shabbos 21b). In the latter, we recount, "when the wicked Greek kingdom rose up against Your people Israel l'hashgicham Torasecha - to make them forget Your Torah and compel them to stray from the statutes of Your will." How did the enemies of Hashem and Israel attempt to implement l'hashgicham Torasecha? The Romans knew how to cause Israel to forget its Torah. The wicked Roman regime decreed that the Jewish people should not engage in the study of Torah (Berachos 61b). Rabbi Akiva defied their edict, convening public assemblies to engage in Torah study. Rabbi Akiva was tortured to and executed by the Romans.

The Greeks, as taught in Megilas Antiochos (attributed to the elders of Hillel and Shammai), forbade the observance of Shabbos, milah, and Rosh Chodesh. We are not told that they forbade the study of Torah. Where, then, is the l'hashgicham Torasecha? The common denominator to these three mitzvos is that they are based upon kedushas Yisroel. Shabbos is not only a practical institution, a day of rest enabling man to be more productive in the forthcoming week, but rather a yom menucha u'kedusha. It enables the Jew to connect with Hashem and His Torah in a way that he cannot the rest of the week. Indeed, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Shabbos 15:3) teaches that the primary purpose of Shabbos is to connect with and learn the Torah he was unable to during the week.

A baby boy is born Jewish by virtue of his mother. Prior to the circumcision the mohel announces "bris kodesh", as the milah endows the baby with additional kedusha. This kedusha is a prerequisite for learning Torah; the Torah hakedosha can only be mastered by a person who is kadosh. The Daas Zekeinim M'Baalei Tosafos at the beginning of Parshas Mishpatim relate the story of Onkelus. Born into the royal family of Rome, he approached the rabbis and asked them to learn Torah. They responded that milah was a prerequisite to study Torah. He was circumcised and became the great Onkelus. Indeed, Rav Akiva Eiger cites in a teshuva that if for any reason the father of the baby is not present at the bris, the grandfather is next in line to recite the beracha of l'hachniso b'vriso shel Avraham Avinu - as this Beracha goes on the responsibility of the father to teach his son Torah, and interestingly, the grandfather as well ash this obligation. A Jewish man who is an orel - uncircumcised - cannot eat and partake of kodshim (offerings), as food endowed with sanctity can only be eaten by one who has additional kedusha.

Rosh Chodesh is a further representation of the ability of the Jew to sanctify. Indeed the Jewish holidays not only separate us from the non-Jewish society, but they reflect our ability to endow time with kedusha. The beracha of Kiddush on the Shalosh Regalim is "mekadaish Yisroel vehazemanim - who sanctifies Israel who in turn sanctify the holidays."

The Greeks valued wisdom and revered Socrates and Aristotle. They respected Torah as another branch on the tree of knowledge, together with all other branches. Math, science, Torah and music were all to be studied by cultured man. The Greeks could not accept, however, that a particular branch was holier and was to be treated and studied in sanctity. "A craftsman hates his fellow artisans" (Braishis Rabbah 19:4), as they represent a threat to his turf and sphere of influence. Torah as wisdom they respected, Torah as chochma Elokis - Divine knowledge - they ardently rejected.

Our Torah mandates that "Kudsha Brich Hu v'Oraysa chad hu - Hashem and His Torah are on and inseparable. Thus "Kedoshim Tihiyu - you shall be holy, for I am holy, says Hashem" (Vayikra 19:2). Consequently, Torah must be studied in an environment of kedusha. Hence in our prayers, "kadhseinu b'mitzvosecha - sanctify us with your mitzvos" and then "v'sein chelkeinu b'sorosecha - allow us to master our share of your Torah." Regarding the construction of the mishkan, the Torah charges, "they shall make a Sanctuary for Me, vshachanti b'socham - so that I may dwell among them." The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh explains the sanctity of the Sanctuary is to overflow and endow holiness in each individual. We conclude every shemoneh esrei with the prayer sheyobaneh Beis Hamikdash - that the third temple speedily be rebuilt and vsain chelkeinu b'Torasecha - in the environment of greater sanctity we will merit a greater participation in Torah.

Yes, the Greeks attempted l'hashgicham Torasecha - to cause Israel to forget Your Torah. The emphasis in on the suffix of Torosecha - Your Torah. Their forbidding our observance of Smilah, Shabbos, and Rosh Chodesh was an attempt to remove kedusha from the Jewish people, ipso facto causing a breakdown in our relationship to Hashem and His Torah. We are too familiar with Peasch cleaning. Even children can relate to cleaning their room for Shabbos. But Chanukah cleaning and preparation? Yes! The Chafetz Chaim pointed out that the only time the Torah says "v'shav meiacharecha - He will turn away from you" (Devarim 23:15) is in a context of unholiness. We must create a greater environment of kedusha within our homes which is conducive to learning Torah and meriting an increased Divine Presence. May this forthcoming Chanukah inspire us to merit "v'haya machanecha kadosh - so your community shall be holy."

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