Given: November 29, 2021
Last week I gave a shiur---class, on what’s called the “pnimiut”---inner meaning of Chanukah. The content was, in many ways, a departure from what most people think. What I want to do this week is, since it’s still Chanukah, elaborate on the theme that I spoke of last week and introduce certain other questions and ideas. I think what will happen is that it will round out your understanding of Chanukah’s significance.
(transciber’s note: Later in the lecture, the rabbi will offer some stunning indicators that portend remarkable and redemptive events to come.)
I’ll begin with a question and I’d love for everyone to respond. It requires only a one-word answer but it’s interesting to see what people think. It’s a very powerful question. I’ve never seen it written anywhere but it’s very dramatic. We know that what we basically commemorate on Chanukah is the miracle of the menorah. We know what the story says, that when they drove out the Greeks, they went into the Beit ha’Mikdash---Holy Temple, looked around for a vial of oil to light the menorah and found one vial that had a seal of the High Priest, the Kohen Gadol, which meant that it wasn’t broken, not contaminated. It wasn’t deemed tumah---impure therefore it could be used.
What was interesting was that they only had one vial. It would take eight days to get new oil which was tahor---uncontaminated, pure. Why?---because they used to get their oil in the Galil and, of course, the Beit ha’Mikdash was in Jerusalem so it would take four days to make the trip, have it manufactured, then another four days to return to Jerusalem. So, it would take eight days. They realized that they only had one day’s worth of uncontaminated oil but settled for one day’s worth instead of nothing. They lit the oil expecting it to go out after one day but, instead, it burned for eight days which is clearly a violation of nature. That was the nes---miracle of the menorah. Eventually, they got more oil so, after that, it was just a regular, natural combustion. This miracle has become the central message, the centerpiece of Chanukah. If you look at the halachot---religious laws in the Shulchan Aruch---compendium of religious laws you’ll notice it’s all about the menorah---who must light, when to light, the placement of the menorah, who’s exempt, who’s obligated, the halachot of the oil.
Why do we make the menorah central? I’m offer you the following questions to dramatize the real message of Chanukah which is based on what I spoke about last week.
The first question is: the events we know of occurred 163BCE. That’s almost 2,000 years ago. What would have developed if, instead of finding one vial of oil, then having to wait eight days, they’d found eight vials? Would the rabbis have been prompted to make a holiday if they’d found eight vials, lit the menorah each night with each of the eight vials and there’d been no miracle? In other words, are we really celebrating the miracle of the menorah or would Chanukah have been declared anyway?
R’Kessin: OK, no. You don’t have to tell me who you are. Anybody else? Somebody said “yes.” Okay, that’s two.
Participant: I say, no.
R’Kessin: Okay, that’s three.
Participant: I say, yeah.
R’Kessin: You say, yes. Okay, so what we got are two “no’s” and three “yes’s.” Well, I’m gonna say what I’m gonna say but then I have to show you why the answer is “yes.”
Chanukah would have happened anyway, the rabbis making a holiday notwithstanding the fact that the menorah did not burn miraculously.
The next question is: why did the rabbis make a holiday at all? There are many times that Jews were persecuted, killed and were saved without the rabbis making a holiday. Do you know how many holidays we’d have if we commemorated all the dangers we endured, possible threats to our existence?
Perhaps an even more important question is: how do the rabbis know when to make a holiday and when not to?
A third question is: what is the essential miracle of Chanukah? Guess what!---it’s not the menorah. It’s partly the victory of the war between the Jews and the Greeks. As I said last week, there were approximately 10,000 Jewish soldiers---not pros. They were citizens that were gathered by the Maccabees. The Greeks were 125,000 battle-hardened soldiers. That’s not even a contest; it’s a miracle, obviously! The Jews were able, too, to defy the culture, the philosophy of Greece. It was war to the death. Since that’s the case, why don’t we find ourselves commemorating that victory though we do mention it in the prayer “Shmona Esrei” which says, “the many in the hands of the few”---that’s true. But we don’t commemorate it. If you look at the Shulchan Aruch, it’s all about the menorah so the central question is why we don’t commemorate the battle itself.
Another question is: why is the holiday so concerned with the menorah when that miraculous burning happened three years after the war had begun and was incidental to the victory?
Correcting Spiritual Damage
What I spoke of last week answers these questions. Chanukah is really about the necessity to correct the spiritual damage caused by the Sin of the Golden Calf. By accepting the avoda zara---idolatry of the calf, they defied the Messianic Light---called the “ohr pnimi”---inner light. G-D is ein od milvado---besides G-D, there is nothing else. You cannot represent G-D by an object. G-D has no representative. In the Jews’ kabbalah---acceptance of that representation, they rejected the ohr pnimi and had to bring a tikkun---rectification for that. What G-D wants is the acceptance of all aspects of the Torah, the Torah b’ktav---written law and the Torah she’b’al peh---oral law and the ohr pnimi. This is what the sin of the Golden Calf rejected which constituted the failure of the Jews.
At the giving of the Torah, one thing G-D revealed to the Jews, as written in parashat Devarim: “You’ve been shown that you may know G-D, that He is the Lord and that, besides G-D, there is nothing else.” Rashi comments on this saying that He is the “yichud”---the One of the entire Creation; there is nothing else. With this insight, it is remarkable that they would build a Golden Calf to worship. They had to be lacking some spiritual necessity which they had to accept with full commitment in order for the Jews to proceed to rectify Creation itself. So, G-D provided a way for the Jews to atone.
G-D made Greece great. Its philosophy---the antithesis of the Messianic Light, the inner light of the Torah---would be the prevailing one to hellenize the entire Middle East and, eventually, the entire world and certainly Judea---Israel. G-D said, in a sense: Let’s see what the Jews do when they are confronted with this philosophy which is contrary to the ohr pnimi, a philosophy which says that G-D is the only thing that runs everything. This was the supreme test and the opportunity for the Jews to atone for the sin they’d committed 1300 years prior. And they succeeded. The real accomplishment of that war was to embrace the ohr pnimi.
That this is the essential meaning of Chanukah answers the questions. First, even if there had been no miracle of the oil burning, the menorah was the symbol of the restoration and rededication of the ohr pnimi of the Torah and the instrument in the Beit ha’Mikdash representing that Light. We know there are seven because the Internal Light is energized by the seven lower sefirot---Divine emanations, called the “tzein tachtonot”---seven branches of the menorah.
Even though the war itself was an incredible victory, the military miracle isn’t even the essential message. The war is the message insofar as the Jews defied the beliefs of Greece but the real message is about the rectification for the sin. Since that’s the case, the rabbis would have made a holiday even without the miraculous burning of the oil. The essential accomplishment was to “rekindle” the menorah as a symbol of the Messianic Light. It is a holiday in regard to the spiritual task they accomplished. It is a new spiritual task, a new tikkun---rectification. That deserves a holiday. If it reinforces a previous tikkun, it is not a holiday. This was a new attempt, a new accomplishment, a new Light to permeate Creation.
The Significance of “8”
What accounts then for the miracle of the menorah burning for eight days? G-D was showing them exactly what they had accomplished, which they didn’t realize. He was indicating what that spiritual achievement was.
Why eight days?---because it would take eight days to retrieve the oil. But it’s even more than that. The number “8” is indicative of that time beyond the messianic era. We know that this world endures for 6,000 years. We know that, in the seven thousandth year—which begins in the Gregorian year 2240---even that is not yet Olam ha’Ba---Future World. That seventh thousandth year marks the preparation of the physical world’s transformation into a spiritual domain beginning in the year 8000. That eighth millennium is an intermediary period. The year 7001 is beginning of that 8th millennium. The transition continues from seventh to eighth, from eighth to ninth. Those eight candles represent the Light of the eighth millennium, which is 7001. That fundamental transformation into a spiritual domain begins in 8001 but the start of it begins in 7001.
Halachot/Beauty Underscoring the True Meaning
The next idea is expressed by the fact that we are not to benefit from the menorah light. It’s what we sing in “Haneirot Halalu.” That is why we have what’s termed “shamash”---attendant candle set apart. The menorah’s light isn’t there to light up the place so you can get around better. It represents an hasaga---insight, an understanding. They reveal a different aspect of reality, not a standard usage of light. This is why we are forbidden to benefit from them because that’s not what they’re for. You can gaze at them but not utilize them for any other task. The halochot are expressions of their true meaning.
The menorah lights have a mitzvah of hidur---beautification. By using oil, we fulfill the hidur mitzvah. Why beautify? That is what the Messianic Light is, a wisdom that is incredibly beautiful in its ability to organize reality into one idea. It organizes multiplicity into unity.
Wisdom has two aspects: the first is called the “chomer”---content, substance, details. The second aspect is the “tzura”---the configuration, the structure of the information. The Messianic Light is the application of the tzura. Right now, we have Torah that is incredibly fragmented. An organized configuration is lacking. In fact, even the Gemara comments on this, saying that the Gemara, the Talmud is rich in one place and poor in another. It can have one topic in one place with lots of ideas and, elsewhere, discusses the same topic with few ideas. It is not organized within a real framework.
The Ohr Rishon, the Messianic Light not only adds to the chomer, providing details about the spiritual universe and how it interacts with the halacha itself, it also organizes the ideas of the Torah itself into a framework. That is what the mashiach does via the Ohr Rishon---First Light. We are provided more detail In terms of Kabbalah, the understandings about the spiritual universe but, besides even that, the material itself is configured, a great advance. The Chanukah lights represent this beauty and, therefore, have to be beautiful, beautified by the use of pure olive oil.
This concept of unity of content and structure is very important. It’s like looking at a puzzle with thousands of pieces. The box has the picture of the completed image. The pieces are the chomer and the finished image is the tzura. The finished image is what’s beautiful, the Ohr Rishon that can be discerned and seen in its unity. I’m trying to show you how the halachot conform to the exact representation of the meaning of the menorah’s light. When the two coincide, the halachot and the true meaning, you know you’ve hit the jackpot. The halachot cannot be different than the hashkafa---philosophy or machshava---ideas of Chanukah.
There’s an argument as to whether we light in ascending or descending order. Should the menorah be lit with eight and then diminish night after night or start with a single light and add one each night? The Beis Shamai says that you should light eight and diminish one each night. Beis Hillel says that you should start with one and augment each night. We decided, “paskined”
according to Beis Hillel.
We can ask what exactly is the argument here. Since the essential message is the rekindling of the Ohr Rishon which Klal Yisrael damaged by their sin, you can look at it this way: what Beit Shamai says is that the world has what’s called “pirud”---separation. G-D created trillions of things but separated everything so each looks distinct. You have trillions of fragments. The Messianic Light unifies all the fragments and unifies them into one idea, at the center of which is G-D. Therefore, it is proper to begin with eight candles, a multiplicity representing separation, and go down to one---the truth of One. It makes sense to go from eight to one, from pirud to unity.
Beit Hillel contended that Beit Shamai was correct, that it makes sense to go from eight to one. What’s interesting is that, as you approach one where everything is organized and united, what increases too is kedusha---holiness. The closer you get to the truth, the closer to being holy. So, therefore, you start with one, one unit of holiness, and advance to greater and greater measures of holiness. The dilemma was which concept to advance. Should it be the idea of multiplicity’s advance to unity or the growth of holiness as a result?
Either way, the menorah represents the Ohr ha’Ganuz---Hidden Light (also the Ohr Pnimi, the Ohr Mashiach, the Ohr Rishon---it’s all the same thing). The Greeks were into everything physical: literature, sports, science, architecture. Their’s was a refutation of that Light. To the Greeks, spirituality was a threat. This is what the Jews rejected and Chanukah would be what it is even without the miracle.
Powerful and Unique Signs, a Confluence of Events
There are several confluences of events that I want to tell you about that could be very good news. It’s interesting to consider what it could mean.
1- Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh: First, this Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh---new month of Teves, coming in on Shabbat and Sunday. That’s the first element of holiness---Shabbat.
2- Parashat “Mikeitz”: The Torah reading this Shabbat is the one in which Yosef gets out of prison. It says, “And they took him out of the bor---pit,” which is prison. This too is an indicator because Yosef in Egypt is the forerunner of Mashiach ben Yosef. That is when he was released.
3- Kedusha of Shabbat: The third kedusha of this Shabbat is that it’s actually the beginning of the new month. We know that a Rosh Chodesh has a certain kedusha already and this Shabbat coincides with that.
4- Eclipse of the Sun: A total eclipse of the sun seen from Antarctica coincides with Shabbat, the new month of Teves and the sixth day of Chanukah.
5- Shabbat Chanukah: Shabbat coincides with the sixth day, the day of Yosef as the ushpizin in the sukkah (to be explained in a moment).
For those who don’t know, the month of Teves is the month of Esav. It begins with Teves and ends with the 15th of Shvat at which point begins the mazal---fortune of Yosef extending into Adar. That is why many bad things happened in Teves, for example the surrounding of the walls of the Beit ha’Mikdash, the beginning of its end on asara b’Teves---10th of Teves. To counter Teves’s ill effect, we have Shabbat and parashat “Mikeitz” with its liberation of Yosef, and the fact that it’s Shabbat Chanukah!
But there’s something else that most people are not aware of. There is to be a total eclipse of the sun. That’s bad news for the goyim, like it says in the Gemara. When there’s an eclipse of the sun, that’s a bad siman---sign for Esav, for the goyim so, guess what!---this Shabbos, in Antarctica, there is to be a total eclipse of the sun. It’s an incredible thing having this on Rosh Chodesh Teves and on Shabbat! The sun and Teves are affiliated with the success of the supremacy of Esav. That an eclipse actually occurs on this day, which also falls on Shabbat, is an incredibly good sign, a sign of his mazal---fortune being “eclipsed” on the first day of its activation. Besides that, you also have the other counters to his mazal, Shabbat and parashat Miketz.
Amazing! I find that to be tremendously fortuitous for the Jewish people.
There’s one more idea that I won’t elaborate on here. There’s a Rokeach who is one of the early chazal---sages. He says that the eight days of Chanukah are parallel to the eight days of Sukkah. For those living outside Israel, Sukkoth is nine days but Sukkoth is eight days. The last day, Shemini Atzeret, is the rededication of the contract between G-D and the Jewish people. If you recall my lesson about this, that day is akin to G-D’s signature on the contract. So, it is said that the eight days of Chanukah---rededication of the commitment to the Ohr Mashiach---is parallel to the rededication of our covenant with G-D. During Sukkoth, the seven ushpizin---guests (Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya’akov, Moshe, Aaron, Yosef, David) could be these same seven on Chanukah.
We know that Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov represent the fabric of the avodah---service of Klal Yisrael. They are the root neshamot---souls of all the Jewish people. Moshe and Aaron are the givers of the Torah---Moshe as the giver of the Torah sh’b’ktav---written Torah and Aaron as the giver of the Torah she’b’al peh---Oral Torah. Moshe would give it over to Aaron, and Aaron would then give it over to the people. Yosef is the root soul of the Josephic messiah and David is the root soul of the Davidic messiah. It is these seven “shepards” that form the basic structure of the entire service a Jew has.
There is an eighth day---zos Chanukah—which is said to be the greatest day because, it’s just like the eighth day of Sukkoth when G-D, the Ribono Shel Olam, “affixed His signature” to rededicate the contract. Similarly, the eighth day of Chanukah also refers to G-D. If that’s true, then Shabbat represents which of the ushpizin?---of Yosef. Shabbat is the sixth day of Chanukah this year which is Yosef. He is the major antagonist, opponent of Esav! As it says, “The House of Jacob will be fire and the House of Yosef will be a flame and the House of Esav will be straw.” It will be consumed.
If Shabbat represents the ushpizin of Chanukah who is Yosef, that’s exactly when you have the total eclipse! So, it comes out on the ushpizin of Yosef, on Chanukah, on Shabbat, on Rosh Chodesh Teves! All this is coming up! The parallel of the two holidays is more extensive but these are some of the ideas that, kabbalistically, are represented.
We know there is no such thing as mesechte for Chanukah. All other holidays have that, the laws that govern those holidays. But Chanukah doesn’t. I told you why not, because the Chashmonayim were supposed to abdicate their kingship and restore it to the Davidic House. Only the Davidic House are allowed to rule the Jewish people. The Chashmonayim were kohanim---priests, and not permitted to rule. Others may rule for a prescribed or restricted amount of time in order to conduct war but, once the war is over, their reign ends. Therefore, G-D destroyed them all. Rebbe, who was from beis David was very angry but not because he felt affronted. He was upset because Chanukah meant that the Jews accepted the Light out of love and self-sacrifice to fight the Greeks and so Chanukah should have been another messianic opportunity! Because they didn’t get off the throne, again, a messianic opportunity was lost and so Rebbe Yehuda ha’Nasi decided not to honor them with a masechte for Chanukah.
It’s interesting that if you take the word “Chashmonayim” in the Hebrew, the letters spell “shemen alef, ches yom”---one vial, eight days. Remarkable. That’s what their name stands for.
The other indicator is what I mentioned last week, that the letters on the dreidel “nun-gimel-heh-shin” add up to, numerologically, 358, which is equal to the numerological value of “mashiach.”
The next clue is the word “ohr”---light. The first time you encounter it in the Torah relating to “it was morning and evening one day and G-D said, ‘Let there be Light’.” It is the 25th word which alludes to the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the first day of Chanukah when that Light is celebrated and reignited.
One more thought: you find that the rededication of the Temple, having gotten rid of all the tumah---impurity that the Greeks installed, is a kind of rebuilding of it. They didn’t rebuild it but they rededicated it. Perhaps the third Beit ha’Mikdash might have come down. Probably, yes, because what they did was spectacular in terms of self-sacrifice and that expression of yearning to rebuild the belief system of the Jewish people.
These confluent events, each of which has powerful significance, could augur the beginning of the messianic process. It’s not just further details. What the mashiach will bring far surpasses anything that we can possibly know. Right now, the Jewish people are ignorant. Eleven million are gone. Even those who learn….there’s learning going on but no “knowing.” That’s the problem. When mashiach comes, he’s not going to just add another pshat---literal interpretation in the Gemara, no. He’s going to reveal what we’ve never seen or conceived of before, unbelievable chochma---wisdom. He’ll add details but the most important addition is the structure of the entire beriya---Creation which we’ve never seen.
In parashat “Noach,” it talks about Yefes, saying that G-D will “enlarge Yefes.” This is interpreted as, and accounts for, the success of Hellenism. Then it says that Yefes “will dwell in the tents of Shem” alluding to their eventual wisdom, including Hellenistic wisdom, becoming subject to the tzura, the structure that mashiach will bring, organizing all that information into one magnificent concept that is the Messianic Light.
Hopefully, this Chanukah will be the one when mashiach comes.
Q & A
Participant: Great class, rabbi. What happens with this eclipse? How does it work? Does it go through the sefirot?
R’Kessin: The Gemara says that they, the goyim, reckon their calendar by the sun. Therefore, any concealment of the sun is a blockage of their power, of their spiritual energy. This is what the Gemara means, that any blow to the sun is a bad siman---sign because the sun represents their power. When the moon goes in front of it and blocks the sun…..the moon always goes in front of the sun but doesn’t necessarily block it. Its orbit places it either above or below the sun as it transits. But every once in a while, it does block the sun which is astounding and symbolic of blockage of the energy of the goyim, of Esav’s/Edom’s dominion.
What I find remarkable is that Teves, which is the beginning of the month of Esav’s/Edom’s dominion, is going to be blocked. This is indicated by this physical event. Hopefully, it indicates enormous repercussions for the Jews.
Participant: How, who, picked the months when they got their power and we got our power? How did they formulate it that way?
R’Kessin: A lot has to do with the constellations because Teves is also Capricorn the goat which is one of the twelve mazolas--zodiacs and Esav was hairy like a goat. He’s called “Seir” which comes from the word “seir” which means “goat.” The mazal of Capricorn is his mazal. There’s another month associated with Esav’s mazal and that is Tammuz, and half of Av. Tammuz is in the dead of winter associated with death. His mazal starts off in Rosh Chodesh Teves, goes to Tu b’Shvat---15th of Shvat. From then begins the mazal of Yosef which is Shvat and Adar. Esav also has Tammuz and half of Av which, as we know is bad for the Jews.
It’s the mazal, the influence of the force of these constellations and what they represent in the spiritual domain that we associate with each constellation’s stars that appear as a certain image. The stars, according to RaMCHaL represent the spiritual forces. They are conduits of spiritual forces.
You should know that total eclipses are rare one is about to happen on Shabbat. Unfortunately, it’s not viewable in many places on earth. Its observability has a narrow band while the moon is obstructing it while the earth is turning so where will that shadow of the moon be when it’s blocking the sun? Where does the shadow that it causes fall on the earth? The shadow cast could be several thousand miles. I heard that it’s going to be in the Antarctic which is unfortunate because nobody is going to go there. Wherever it is, it’s a very bad indicator for the goyim, for Esav, but which is, of course, very good for the Jews.
Participant: What about this new variant? (Covid-19 variant)
R’Kessin: Obviously, the Ribono Shel Olam (G-D) is not finished with this world. We are in a holding pattern which is that justice has to be satisfied for Him to bring mashiach. Like I’ve said before, we are at the mem-tet sha’arei tumah---49th Gate of Defilement, contamination. Take a look at the incredible moral degradation of the United States, and it’s not just the U.S. It’s the evil of China, of Iran, Russia. The world is filled with evil, immorality. An entire team of about eighty people broke into stores in San Francisco. All of this is to cause pain and uncertainty among people. Nobody knows what to do. And, of course, the politicians are at home, out to lunch, especially the progressives and the Democrats. They’re trying to destroy the world. It will go on as long as it has to, until the world will have achieved its justice and then that’s it. Then something will happen where the mashiach will begin his journey and the program will begin.
Participant: Do you think he’s released yet?
Participant: Maybe, hopefully, it will happen on Shabbat. That’s when you said…
R’Kessin: Yeah, maybe. That’s why I brought it down. Most people don’t know, are not aware that this could be it, the total eclipse of the sun on Rosh Chodesh Teves. Most people don’t know what Rosh Chodesh Teves symbolizes so that’s why I wanted to inform everybody. What’s about to occur is a spectacular spiritual event against evil!
Participant: And then the parasha when he gets released!
R’Kessin: Exactly. “Mikeitz” is when he gets released.
Participant: And it takes two years, after two years, and it’s been almost two years from Corona (virus).
R’Kessin: Yes, that’s also true. I find an interesting idea about Joseph in Egypt is that he was there for thirteen years. He was kidnapped at 17 and he stood before Pharoah at 30. So, it comes out that he was a slave and a prisoner for thirteen years. That’s a long time to be without anybody. And, believe me, Egyptian prisons were no picnic. But it’s interesting that when he was finally freed, when G-D said: enough is enough, I’m going to free Yosef because he’d suffered enough and did he what he had to do. In one pasuk---verse, he was freed. It’s astounding! They took him from the pit (prison), bathed him, shaved him, and brought him before Pharoah. It recounts this in one pasuk, one verse. In one verse, he experienced total freedom and the miracle is not just that he was freed but that he stood before Pharoah and became the Grand Vizier. Who ever heard of something like that? A guy gets out of prison and becomes president of the United States? We cannot begin to fathom the incredible miracle of this. The only One Who can pull this off is the Ribono Shel Olam---the Master of the World. This is what is recounted in parashat “Miketz.”
So, it’s not just that he was freed but that he ascended to unbelievable kingship, power. He became the second most powerful man in Egypt, in their empire. That’s what’s going to happen. When mashiach is freed from his spiritual bonds, it will be more than freedom. It will be ascension, the assumption to a position of incredible success and power and that is what we look forward to. The take-away lesson is that when G-D begins to bring the geula---Redemption, it will be with unbelievable speed and power.
It’s like when the g’zera---decree that the Jews had to gather straw ended. Moshe says to Pharoah: by the way, I’m back but this time I’m back with power, fully reinstated and, guess what!---not only is he back in power but he turns the Nile to blood. Can you imagine a river as wide as the Nile turning into blood? The Red Cross would have had a field day! That’s the power we’re talking about, of a mashiach. It may start slowly but each step will be spectacular and that will make up for all the time the Jews suffered. Imagine watching this man perform such miracles!