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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.
This coming Tuesday, 18 Tishrei, is the 18th yahrtzeit of HaRav Naftali Neuberger, zt"l, of Ner Yisroel.
This shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Naftali ben Meir Halevi.
I heard the following from Rav Tzvi Mordechai Feldheim of Mesivta Kesser Torah last year:
The four species we traditionally take and shake on Sukkos carry numerous different symbolisms. If you ask your typical student, perhaps the most well-known is the midrash (Tanchuma Emor 19) comparing each item to a part of the body. The one lulav is compared to the spine. The one esrog resembles our heart. We take two aravos whose leaves are shaped like lips – of which, of course, we have two. The leaves of the hadas resemble the eyes. Why, then, do we take three, rather than two?
Another oddity regarding the hadas is observed in the discussion in the gemara (Sukkah 32b) regarding configurations of the leaves that render a hadas invalid. The stem should have three leaves coming out together at the same level. If one of the leaves is offset from the other two, although Rav Acha would consider this a virtue, Mar bar Ameimar declared that his father would refer to such a branch as a hadas shoteh – literally, a crazy myrtle. Why is this adjective used for the hadas? We don't find any other invalid mitzvah objects being referred to as shoteh.
We commonly associate the work sukkah etymologically with the schach, the covering, to which many of the intricate halachic details apply. Rabbeinu Bachye (Devarim 16:14), however, suggests that the word is derived from socheh, to see (as in Rashi to Bereishis 11:29). More specifically, it refers to the more abstract vision of wisdom and insight.
Rabbi Feldheim explains that the theme of the sukkah demands of us to let go of our pursuit of material possessions and leave our home in favour of a flimsy hut to remind us of that which is fleeting and meaningless and focus our attention to serving HaShem, the true purpose of our existence. This is the vision to which Rabbeinu Bachye refers that this mitzvah makes so clear. In addition to our two physical eyes, we must possess the third eye to realize this vision. That is why we take three hadasim. As well, the branch with only two leaves aligned is referred to as shoteh because symbolically, it represents the individual who sees only with his eyes and lacks the awareness to understand his true purpose.
Have a good Shabbos and chag samei'ach!