Chanukah – Torah Themes


The Eternal Oil Jug

When Yaakov was left alone, it was precisely at that time that the angel of Eisav fought with him. The Yalkut Reuveni brings down from the Shach al Hatorah a midrash about the background of this story. When Yaakov went to sleep he took twelve rocks and they miraculously formed together as one. He found a jug of oil and poured it as a libation to Hashem. After pouring it, he noticed that the jug miraculously refilled. This was the jug that the mishkan, its vessels, the mizbeyach, Aharon and all of his sons and all the kings were anointed from. Chazal say this oil lasts forever. This was the jug that was found and used during the Chanukah miracle. Yaakov forgot this jug (pachim kitanim) and risked his life to go back for it because it was so valuable.

This is the Midrash that the Shach brings down and it needs much explanation. Incidentally, tt answers why Chanukah is 8 days in that the oil replenished each time it was used from the first and until the eighth night, thus showing a miracle on each night.

The trait of Yaakov is that of emes, truth, “titen emes li’Yaakov.” Truth, explains Rav Hutner, is when all the parts fit in smoothly with the whole. Yaakov performed an amazing feet with his life. He lived in the physical world, engaged with Lavan and business, and yet elevated it all to Hashem. Yaakov’s actions brought Godliness and spirituality into the mundane. This is the entire theme of what Chanukah is about, elevating the physical to the spiritual.

The longest benching of the year is Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Chanukah, is this just a coincidence? We find that the four kosos at the pesach seder correspond to the four exiles, Babylonia, Paras/Madai, Greek and Rome (Yerushalmi). The third cup corresponds to the Greeks and the Chanukah miracle and is once again used for nothing other than birachas hamazone! What is this about? It is about taking the physical meal and turning it all into a mitzvah and spiritual experience. We ate and nourished our physical bodies, but when we bench, we are turning that experience back over to the holy. That is our mission in life, that is what the Greeks fought against, they didn’t want to kill us just because we were Jews (like by Purim and in Germany), they simply wanted us to renounce our religion and live as successful Greeks. Hense, our battle was to maintain spirituality and overcome their challenges.

This was the same battle that Yaakov set out to fight, maaseh avos siman libanim. Yaakov received the oil specifically at a time that he left Beis Midrash Shem and Ever and had to work, interact with Lavan and start a family. Just as oil floats to the top and does not mix with water, so too, Yaakov needed to make sure his spirituality did not get lost in the mundane world. This oil represents the Jewish nations’ commitment and dedication to Hashem and spirituality and is thus unending and unable to ever be tampered with. The Satan tries to destroy our children and Yaakov had to wage a battle to get back his pachim kitanim, but he did succeed and in the end we will always prevail.

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