Chanukah

The Torah reading for Chanukah consists of the section describing the offerings the twelve tribal princes brought during the Mishkan’s dedication ceremony, followed by the section presenting Hashem’s command to Aharon to light the menorah in the Mishkan every day. These two sections appear one right after the other in the Torah, and the Midrash comments on the juxtapostion (Bamidbar Rabbah 15:6). The Midrash relates that Aharon was upset that his tribe, the tribe of Levi, did not have the chance to bring a dedication offering. He was worried that some flaw in him caused the tribe of Levi to lose out. Hashem responded by telling him that his lot is better than that of the princes, for the practice of bringing offerings will continue only while the Mishkan or Beis HaMikdash is standing, but the practice of lighting a menorah will remain in effect forever – through the festival of Chanukah.
The Maggid discusses this Midrash in his commentary on Koheles 7:8. He notes an engima in Hashem’s response to Aharon. If a rich man’s son passes away, we would not try to console him by pointing out how wealthy he is. Thinking about his wealth will not make him stop mourning for his son; the two matters are unrelated. Similarly, there seems to be no connection between the menorah and Aharon’s lack of participation in the dedication ceremony. But the Maggid shows that there in fact is a connection.
Every creation has a certain natural potency, but eventually it dies out. A person should therefore safeguard from the very start whatever comes into his hands, and take steps to enhance its potency. Such steps will be of great benefit in the long run, as the natural potency weakens. A creation’s natural potency is sufficient to sustain it through midlife, but at the end of its life its mainstay is the extra potency added to it in its early days. Thus, R. Chanina said that the hot baths and oil his mother plied him with during his childhood is what kept him vigorous in his old age (Chullin 24b).
Hoshea declared in Hashem’s name (verse 11:1): “When Israel was a lad I loved him, and from Egypt I have called out to My son.” Hoshea likens the Jewish People to a lad and to a son. It is the way of parents to pamper a child when he is young, and to fortify him with various forms of special care, and this treatment sustains him in his old age after his natural potency is gone. Similarly, during the Jewish People’s formative days, in Egypt and at the Sea of Reeds, Hashem performed awesome miracles for them, in order to fortify their weak faith – to lead them to love and fear Him with all their hearts. This regimen of faith was just like the hot bath and oil treatment that R. Chanina received when he was a child.
The same idea underlies the dedication offerings of the princes. The contribution of worthy offerings by worthy men provided a spiritual foundation that sustained the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash for an extended length of time, and nutured the Beis HaMikdash in its latter years. But Aharon did not need to participate in this activity, because his lot – the menorah – is destined to abide forever. Since Aharon’s lot is not subject to decline, it did not need fortification through any dedication ceremony.
The Maggid brings out the point with a charming parable. A man had a number of sons. Almost all of them were sickly and of weak constitution, but one was very healthy and strong. The man consulted a doctor, who prescribed some pleasant-tasting medicine. When the man came home, he gave the medicine to his sickly sons, and they were very happy. When the healthy son saw that he got no share, he was upset – he wondered why he was being treated less generously than his brothers. His father told him: “Don’t be foolish and wish for nice-tasting medicine. You are better off with the good health that Hashem gave you, which keeps you from needing any medicine.”
This is how Hashem responded to Aharon when he got upset over not bringing any offering during the Mishkan’s dedication ceremony. Hashem told him: “On the contrary, your lot is better than theirs. You do not need to perform any dedicatory act. What I have assigned to you will abide forever, without any act of this kind.”
Chanukah Sameach!
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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