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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.
A belated mazal tov to my niece Rochel Leah (née Shonek) and her husband Shua Greenwald on the birth of daughter, Yenta Rivkah (Rikki – and on their 6th wedding anniversary, while I'm at it.) Mazal tov to the extended Shonek, Bulka and Greenwald families.
Today, the 15th of Av, marks the 13th yahrtzeit of my Opa, Mr. George Jakobovits. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, a"h.
Although the yearly Torah reading cycle has not always followed its current pattern, it has a tendency to have the parshah of the week correspond quite neatly with the calendar. For example, we read Moshe Rabbeinu's exclamation of "Eichah!" in Parshas Devarim (1:12) which always falls on the Shabbos before Tish'ah B'Av. We always read Parshas Nitzavim, which speaks of teshuvah, as we approach Rosh HaShanah and the aseres yemei teshuvah. This week is known as Shabbas Nachamu, after the beginning of this week's haftarah which begins with the words "Nachamu, nachamu ami..." be comforted, be comforted My nation. The haftarah is specifically directed at the theme of comfort and consolation, but surely, this theme should present itself in the parshah as well. If anything, Va'eschanan deals with more ominous circumstances as it is the source for the reading on Tish'ah B'Av, discussing the various repercussions of straying from the path. There seems to be no mention of the week's theme whatsoever.
Perhaps, the theme is hinted to in the very passage that is read on Tish'ah B'Av. After reading of all the terrible consequences of our evil deeds, we are assured (4:29-31)
"And from there, you will beseech HaShem, your God, and you shall find, if you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul. Amidst your tribulations when these things have been visited upon you, in the end of days, when you shall return to HaShem, your God, and listen to His voice. For Hashem, your God, is a merciful God, He will not forsake you and He will not destroy you, nor will He forget the covenant of your fathers which He has sworn to them."
These words remind us, after we have mourned the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash which came about as a result of our awful sins, that no matter how deep we sink, no matter how much it seems that HaShem has distanced Himself from us, we may always return at a moment's notice and HaShem will answer us. This passage encourages us never to lose hope amidst our exile, as HaShem will never forsake us, a veritable paradigm of the theme of "Nachamu." As well, its presence in the reading for Tish'ah B'Av fits nicely with the theme we discussed (on a different occasion) – that Tish'ah B'Av is not just about mourning the destructions of the past but about looking forward and focusing on rebounding from our tragedies towards a path to redemption.
Have a good Shabbos.