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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 Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my niece and nephew, Fraidy and Shmuel Clinton of Lakewood on the birth of a baby boy Wednesday night. Mazal Tov to the extended Bulka, Shonek and Jakobovits families with a special mazal tov to Oma Jakobovits as this was the second of two great great grandchildren born this week.
At the very beginning of the parsha we have the very famous question of Rashi: "Ma inyan shemittah eitzel Har Sinai?" Why is Har Sinai mentioned in connection to the mitzvah of shemittah more so than any other mitzvah? This phrase is so well-known that it has become a Hebrew colloquialism equivalent to, "What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?" Rashi's answer is that just as the entire mitzvah of shemittah and all its minutia were all spelled out at Har Sinai, so to all the mitzvos were taught in their entirety at Har Sinai.
But it seems the question still remains unanswered. Why is shemittah chosen as the paradigmatic mitzvah with which to teach us this? I believe a possible answer relates to the immediacy of the application of the mitzvos. Of the 613 mitzvos, there were many that were applicable immediately. Some mitzvos became applicable later. Some that were connected to Eretz Yisroel only became applicable after they crossed over into the land, some later still. The mitzvah of shemittah was not observed until much later. The midrash states that the mitzvah didn't even apply until after the land was conquered and divided and thus, it wasn't until the 21st year that it was observed. There was certainly no rush to deliver the complex details of this special mitzvah. And yet, we are told that it was taught at Har Sinai. Surely, all other mitzvos were as well.
(One might ask, what about yoveil? Yoveil contains an explicit mitzvah for beis din to count the years leading up to it and therefore, it became applicable immediately, or at least at year 15.)