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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.
I felt the following thought is particularly pertinent this year when so many of us are confined to some degree of isolation and will not be part of the larger seder we are used to – some even conducting the seder in solitude. Please continue to daven for all of the cholim. Yom Tov hi miliz’ok, urfuah kerovah lavo.
In the beginning of Maggid, we recite "Avadim hayinu." In this paragraph, we say that if not for the fact that HaKadosh Baruch Hu had taken us out of Mitzrayim, we would still be beholden to Paroah in Mitzrayim. Therefore, even if we are all wise, understanding knowers of the Torah, we have a mitzvah to tell over the story of yetzias Mitzrayim. To say that there are two questions to be asked on this paragraph would surely not be the whole truth. However, there are two questions on which I wish to focus. First, why would we have thought that wise sages would be exempt from the mitzvah? Second, how does the haggadah in fact justify this requirement?
As an introduction, I would like to quote a piece from R' Chaim Kanievsky on Chanukah, found in Ta'ama D'kra. He asks why there is no mention of the miracle of the oil in the text of "Al HaNisim." He answers that the theme of Al HaNisim is hoda'ah, giving thanks. When it comes to giving thanks, the obligation only exists regarding an event by which one is directly affected. For a miracle that only truly benefited those at the time and has no effect on us now, there is no obligation of hoda'ah. We find that Sukkos is built around the miracle of HaShem's protecting us. However, since this miracle does not affect us today, we don't find any specific requirements of hoda'ah on Sukkos. So, too, the miracle of the oil has no direct effect on us today. On the other hand, had B'nei Yisrael been destroyed in the war, we would not be around today. Therefore, we must give thanks for the winning of the war.
Perhaps, what the paragraph of "Avadim Hayinu" is teaching us is that we might have thought that the mitzvah of sipur yetzias Mitzrayim is strictly an educational one, that there is an obligation for the wise to teach those who do not know as the main source of this mitzvah is "vehigadta levincha," a requirement for the father to teach the son. Had this been so, if we were all wise sages, there would be no need to do this mitzvah for no one needs to be educated. However, this is not so. Attached to the mitzvah of sipur yetzias Mitzrayim is the very pertinent theme of hoda'ah. We are not merely telling a story. We are expressing thanks and appreciation to HaShem for yetzias Mitzrayim, whether we've learned about it previously or not. The haggadah, therefore, starts by illustrating how the miracle affects us today, that if not for yetzias Mitzrayim, we would still be beholden to Paroah in Mitzrayim. Because of this, there is an obligation to thank HaShem and therefore all of us are commanded to tell the story of yetzias Mitzrayim.