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During the Second Temple, the Greek empire reigned (over Israel),1 and they (the Greeks) passed decrees against the Jews and (tried) to erase their religion, and did not allow them to carry out Torah (study) or the commandments. They put their hands on their property and their daughters. They entered the Temple, destroyed and made the pure unclean. The Jews were in great distress because of them and were much oppressed, until the G-d of their fathers had mercy on them, delivering them from their hands and saving them. Then overcame, the sons of the Hasmonean High Priest, (the Greeks) and killed them and saved the Jews from their hands. They appointed a king from the Priests, and the kingdom of Israel was restored for more than 200 years until the destruction of (the) second (Temple). When the Jews overcame their enemies and destroyed them, it was the 25th of Kislev2 when they entered the Sanctuary (inner room) and did not find pure (olive) oil in the Temple, except one jar sealed with seal of the High Priest, and it did not contain enough to light except for one day only. But they lit from it the lamps of the Menorah3 for eight days, until they could crush olives and produce a (new quantity) of pure oil. For these reasons, decreed the Sages of that generation that these eight days that begin on the 25th Kislev, will be days of joy and praise. One lights on them lamps at evening at the entrance to the houses, every evening of the eight nights to show off and demonstrate the miracle. These days are called ''Hanukah'' that is to say ''they rested'' (chanu) on the ''25'' ('th of the month) because on the 25th they rested from their enemies. and also because of those days they (re)-dedicated the house (Temple) which their foes had defiled. Also some say that it is a commandment to increase slightly the festive meals on Hanukah. Another reason is because the work of (building) the Sanctuary (in the desert) was completed in these days. One should tell one's children the story of the miracles that were done for our fore-fathers in those days, (see Josephus) However, these meals are not considered as part of the commandment unless one says at the meal songs of praise. One should increase charity in these Hanukah days, for this can help mend any defects in our souls. This charity, should be given particularly to poor Torah scholars. (KSA 139:1)
1) 352 BCE until 70 CE
2) 139 BCE
3) The Menorah was made of gold and had seven branches.
Of all the numerous laws outlined in Kedoshim, only one concludes with the assertion: I am Hashem, your G-d, Who brought you forth from the land of Egypt. (Vayikra 19 36)
The Sifra sees in this singling out of the command to ‘maintain proper weights and measures’ from all others, as indicating that this one is ‘the sole reason why we left Egypt’.
The Talmud sees in this concluding verse an additional message.
During the plague of the Killing of the Firstborn, G-ddiscerned between the drop [of sperm that led to the conception] of a firstborn and the drop [of sperm that did] not [lead to the conception] of a firstborn. G-d thus warned, “[Likewise,] I am the One faithful to exact punishment upon someone who secretly stores his weights in salt [thus altering their weight] in order to defraud people who do not recognize them [as weights that have been tampered with.]” (Bava Metzia 61b)
Rashi elucidates that this refers to specifically the death of those who were not necessarily the first born to their mother but were nevertheless the first conceived through their fathers. Evidently the mother who already bore a child to her ‘husband’ engaged in adultery with other men, bearing them their children as well. Although they were not aware of this deviation, thinking they were one happy family, they too were deemed ‘firstborns’ and died in the plague. Only G-d was capable of being privy to this information. And that same G-d will exact punishment from those who seek to conceal their misdeeds.
How is this detail alluded in the verse that states G-d ‘brought us forth from Egypt’?
This was merely a important detail in the story, but not necessarily that which ‘brought them out of Egypt’?
The Mechilta points out it was these ‘children’ who compelled Pharaoh to send out the Jews immediately, as they feared it was not only the firstborn that would die, but rather the entire male populace, as evidenced in these children’s deaths even though they were not apparently firstborns.
So, in truth it was precisely this episode that led to the Jews exodus!
Why couldn’t they figure it out on their own that perhaps they too were firstborns? Was it so preposterous in that decadent land to suspect that this was the case?
Clearly they could not fathom that G-d would consider these ‘accidents of birth’— who lived their lives up until this point oblivious to this newfound status — as ‘firstborns’.
They simply could not accept a notion of a G-d attending to them as special individuals distinct from others.
This lesson though is perhaps one of the greatest lessons derived from the story.
Each one of us is unique and individually responsible to bring to fruition our role in the world, regardless of whatever murky circumstances we arise from.
In the law related to the use of weights and measures — instruments purported to represent accuracy and truth — if one abuses that tool in promoting self-interest in the guise of honesty, one has perpetrated the crime of erasing the very inherent nobility and connection to the One whose image we are forged with, denying our exquisite relationship with Him.
All other sins are acts of compulsion or impulse, and although one is accountable, can be understood. But the portraying of greed in the guise of truth and integrity, is inexcusable and so grievous a sin that it tears apart the very essence of our soul and being — our raison d’etre.
We were taken out of Egypt to realize how we are each intimately connected and guided by G-d. Although we may lapse at times despite that status, but we must never, ever forget who we are, and what we stand for. We can be forgiven for our impulses, but not for abusing the very seal of G-d — Emes / Truth — for personal gain.
The Talmud adds there are two more misrepresentations we are accountable for in addition to falsifying our weights.
One who claims he is lending money with interest merely as the agent of a gentile lender — when it is truly his own money, as well as one who dyes his Tzizis with blue dye of vegetable origin (Indigo) — feigning true Techeles, will be dealt with and punished likewise.
The holy Munkatcher Rebbe castigated those ‘Shayna Yidden’ among the Jewish lay leadership who seek honor and glory for their contributions, even while that degrade their stature when engaging in questionable behavior under the guise of all sorts of claimed ‘hetterim’, like the disguised usurer.
He similarly took to task the businessmen who feign honesty with all sorts of subterfuge, comparing them to those who tamper with their weights.
Sparing no one, he admonished the Rebbes, Roshei Yeshivos and Rabbinic leaders, who falsely claim righteousness and scholarship, donning garments whose ‘colors’ are poor cover-ups for their moral deficiencies, — the purveyors of false Techeles.
We must each ask ourselves how honestly, we weigh our attitudes, and measure up our character, to the standards of pure Emes that is worthy of a people who each have an exquisite relationship with Hashem.
צבי יהודה טייכמאן