~ This blog is dedicated to my husband R’ Ari Taback for his unfailing support.  ~

Based on “As Dawn Ends the Night” by R’ Akiva Tatz

Before I continue, let us review our questions.

  1. Why do we celebrate the miracle of chanuka when if fact since then, the “lights have completely gone out” – there hasn’t been an open miracle SINCE the chanuka story and in fact, Jewish history is peppered (ok, drenched) with exile, persecution and heartache. How do we connect to living on a miraculous plane when Hashem’s revelation is so profoundly hidden in our times?
  2. Why is chanuka not referenced to in the Torah?
  3. Why do we observe chanuka and purim without any cessation of melacha, constructive work, like Pesach, Shavuos, Sukkos but continue on with our regular activities?
  4. What is lighting the candles “doing” for us on a spiritual level?
  5. Why is our commemoration of the Judo-Greek battle still so relevant?
  6. Where are we situated now in the big picture of history?? What can we do to expedite the promised good of the messianic era?
  7. I’ll add another one – special for nexus – What does all this have to do especially for women? This is my favorite question 😊

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The key to all these questions lies in making a distinction between the two phases of history, a distinction that the Arizal helps illustrate with his mysterious reference to Chanuka and Purim as the two “legs” of history. This of course ties into the archetypal feud between Yaakov and Esav in which the spiritual essential being of Esav mortally wounded Yaakov’s thigh. We mentioned that intriguingly,  “And he smit him on his leg” equals Chanuka and Purim in gematria. Each of the questions we started with enters the territory of a central teaching that will not only provide the answers but display new facets of beauty of this teaching.  Let’s begin with getting a grip on miracles.

The first phase of history was a phase of unimaginable revelation and miracles.  The world shone with a knowledge of the Divine that we cannot fathom in our day.  Prophets abounded (there were over a million – though not all their prophecies were recorded in Torah if they weren’t relevant for the long haul).  Direct encounter with Hashem on a constant basis by these prophets changed the air that everyone breathed.  The question wasn’t whether to believe in a Divine Being or not, but rather whether one wanted to serve G-d directly or negotiate with His intermediaries instead (in the form of idol worship) for personal interest.  Although temptation for the forces of evil was great (as demonstrated by the villains of that era) it was not the pathetic materialism, atheism, and ignorance that we have today.  The stakes were high because the spiritual voltage of that era was high.  It was clear to all that the material world was energized from an unseen but uncontested source world above it. Let’s call this stage of history phase one – it includes the splitting of the sea, the giving of the Torah, the prophets and miracles, and spanned up until the destruction of the first temple and the sealing of the written Torah (the 24 books of Tanach), at which point the world started to transition into phase two.  In phase one, although the miraculous was wondrous, it naturally fit into the spiritual worldview that dominated the minds of people.  Miracles were to those who saw them merely a temporary suspension of the laws of nature by He who designed them in the first place, in the context of a relationship with G-d that was as real as relating to flesh and blood.

The gemora (yoma 29a) says that “as dawn ends the night, so Esther ends [the era of] miracles”.  The stories of Chanuka and Purim were both the last vestiges of a supernatural mode of existence in a world that was going dark – Chanuka saw the burning of one day’s oil for eight days – a bending of the laws of nature one last time – and Purim saw the Hand of G-d as He saved the people from certain annihilation within the laws of nature.  At this time, prophesy was ending, Tanach was being sealed (the book of Esther was the last book to be included), the Men of the Great Assembly were institutionalizing formal prayer and standardized blessings to ensure that we would still know how to connect to G-d in the dark, and a new era began.  Goodbye to searing clarity, to intimate and direct experience of Hashem, to miracles and prophets.  And welcome…  Greeks.

Who were the Greeks?  With the rescinding of a supernatural light the Greeks were able to lay down a new operating system into the psyche of man called “reason”.  Reason is the elegant and hard to argue with mental tool that allows you to observe the evidence and draw logical conclusions.  Reason is the father of science, the grandfather of art, culture and aesthetic beauty, and the great uncle of technology.  Reason innocently sees what it there to be seen and in a backwards way divorced from any higher knowing, constructs a new paradigm of what we are living for.  Greek ideology could never have taken hold or elicited such allure in a world with open miracles – it would have been blown right out of the water when the evidence for the spiritual was experiential.  But when that faded to memory and Hashem removed His revelation, the mind-frame of reason appears the most plausible description of reality and how to engage with all that is.

Esav, Rome, and Edom [all names for the same empire] is a regime of brute force that when paired with the genius of Greece capitulated the Greek value system into the rest of world history.  Our battle with western ideology is in fact a battle with Greece at its core.  What’s worse is that we are fighting this battle within our own psyches without recognizing who is the enemy.  The logic and appeal of empirical ways of knowing tug at our western trained faculties and we struggle to recognize them as foreign because we have become them. 

Phase one, Hashem’s light pours into the world.  Phase two, it has gone dark.  And Chanuka is at the crux between them – a final display of other-worldly light that is to escort us into the long haul.  But wait!  The gemora about Esther, the heroine of Purim,  Chanuka’s “twin sister” festival which also escorted out the era of miracles and transitioned us into the new phase, doesn’t make sense …

“As the dawn ends the night, Esther ends [the era of] miracles”.

As the Dawn ends the night???  If we are using the imagery of light and day as our metaphor, shouldn’t the gemora say as dusk ends the day???  When Hashem shines Himself into the world – shouldn’t that be compared to DAY and our impossibly long exile compared to night?  Why is Esther likened to the morning star, Ayelet HaShachar, when she, Purim, and Chanuka bring us to a new phase in history when miracles are not present and prophecy has long since been silenced?

The answer is that although we are in the dark, there is indeed a new light dawning.  There is a secret wisdom that we can learn that allows us to access the same place where the miracles came from during the first phase of history, while we are in the second phase of history.  This wisdom has to do with the brilliance of the sages who participate in generating a second-phase Torah called the Oral Law.  The commitment, passion and creativity pressed from them and all who engage in cultivating this spiritual mentality is nothing less than a display of love from those who seek Hashem.  It is a new kind of light, one that is reflected and refracted from the original blaze of prophecy and miracles yet scintillates in the here-and-now with an otherworldly glow.  Men – and women – who understand this have touched the inner essence of their own Jewish psyche.  Precisely because it is dark, we are in a new phase of history where Hashem has invited us to step forward and create a new Torah and therefore a new relationship, through our own spiritual attunement.  He is inviting us to see the lights of the Chanuka and know that just because something cannot be quantified or measured doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but in actually it is ALL that really exists and in fact is the generator of the world that we do see.  Chanuka is an invitation to climb above the confines of our own Greek mindset and find ourselves in a world of miracles.  Not miracles that we can see blatantly but that we sense into within the darkness, trusting that they are there and banking our lives on them.  To quote a friend, “we don’t just believe in miracles – we rely on them!” That is what it means to be Jewish.  We may be western in our acculturation but we will always be spiritual at our core.  On Chanuka we allow the core to chart our path and relate to everything in our world through those new-found, undeniably Jewish eyes.  It’s time to take off the Greek glasses.

Esav battled with Yaakov, dislocating his hip.  The Arizal says that Chanuka and Purim are the legs of the cosmic body of Jewish history.   Legs, as limbs, are not core to the body, just as Chanuka and Purim are not core to the written Torah.  However, without legs, the torso is immobile and cannot carry itself beyond itself.  So too, the written Torah and its festivals of Pesach, Shavuos, Sukkos are indispensable to Torah and celebrate the direct light from Hashem as was experienced in the Temple.  When the lights went out, it was Chanuka and Purim that literally walked us into the dark of night and will ultimately be the ones to bring us to yet another dawn. They give the first phase of history continuity and hope for the future and will bridge us to the third and final phase of history, the arrival of Moshiach.

Yaakov’s leg remained injured until Chanuka – this means, until we entered the second phase, Yaakov [the Jewish people] didn’t have the tools to propel himself to the end of time, because he was still in the light and that was not the purpose of that phase of history.  But when all that light withdrew and Purim and Chanuka signaled a new beginning, we began healing the broken thigh by carrying Torah into the exile as only legs can do.  Hashem had made space for us to shine by withholding the very light we craved – and that is the subtle light – our own light – that we are able to emit.  How proud is our Father in Heaven when despite the darkness around us, we ourselves glow like Chanuka lights. It is truly a new day – in the darkness we have the lofty role of stitching together the phases of history – a luminous beginning with the dawn of the redemption, through our ability to renounce the limitations of reason and choose to see the light of a world that is hidden. Living with miracles is our choice – and when we are sure of them, they begin to reveal themselves to our very eyes.

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Let’s go back and answer our questions.

  1. Why are we celebrating miracles when there are none in our times?

A – Miracles are no longer revealed to us but through our faith and a Jewish worldview we are sensitized to living on the plane of subtle miracles.  Seeing Hashem’s presence in our lives is like looking at the chanuka lights in the dark of night.

  1. Why is chanuka not referenced to in the Torah?

A – The whole essence of Chanuka is that it is not referenced to the past but to the future, and is the epitome of the brilliance of our sages and their authority to create a festival for and relating to the exile.  This is the power of the second phase of history, that of the Oral Torah.

  1. Why do we observe Chanuka and Purim without any cessation of melacha, constructive work, like Pesach, Shavuos, Sukkos…

A –  Ditto to above. The holiness of the festival lies precisely in the mundane because it is the perfect spiritual ammunition to combat it.   Chanuka and Purim bring the light into the darkness forever and ever and therefore are celebrated in the domain of the secular, since, in essence, there is no such thing as secular anyway – it is just a (Greek) illusion.

  1. What is lighting the candles “doing” for us on a spiritual level?

A – It is imprinting into our neshamos everything we need to accomplish our role in history, to keep on glowing in the dark.

  1. Why is our commemoration of the Judo-Greek battle still so relevant?

A – Rome and by extension the entire western world is merely an extension of Greek ideology.  Therefore the battle between Yaakov and Esav is the epic struggle before the coming of Moshiach.

  1. Where are we situated now in the big picture of history?? What can we do to expedite the promised good of the messianic era?

A – We are far down the leg… close to the feet, about to usher in the final redemption .  We expedite the coming of the dawn by referencing ourselves to that reality and live supernatural lives within the natural.  Let us not be too surprised when the truth is revealed because we were already aware of it!

  1. I’ll add another one – special for nexus – What does all this have to do especially for women?

A – This is the subject for another time to do it justice (stay tuned be”H for the Pre-Messianic Woman programs!) Let it suffice to say that the realm of faith, intuition and living with miracles is a woman’s forte and important contribution to our nation.  She is at the nexus of light and dark, day and night, spiritual and physical, and is perfectly suited to be a key player to bring the redemption. 

 

Chanuka Sameach!