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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.
The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Oma, Chaya Sara bas Zecharia Chaim, a"h.
This week's shtikle is dedicated for a refuah sheleimah for my father.
Please include Reuven Pinchas ben Yehudis in your tefillos.
This year has already seen a number of unique circumstances in the calendar. Yet another consequence of this rare configuration is the fact that the 5th of Iyar, the anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, lands on Shabbos. Of course, the actual commemoration is moved (as it is most years) to avoid chilul Shabbos. It seems the most glaring lesson to be gleaned actually comes from the haftarah – certainly one of the more captivating stories we read.
The story of the haftarah has its own interesting backstory, some of which is covered in the haftarah of Tazria which is very seldomly read (approximately 16% of years, credit: Shaarei Zemanim.) There is an important preamble which is only read in the Yeminite tradition. The prophet Elisha declares in the midst of a terrible famine and a siege from the nation of Aram that tomorrow there will be such bounty that the price of wheat and barley would drop to unbelievably low rates. So unbelievable, in fact, that one of the king's aides declares it impossible, at which point Elisha informs him that it will happen but he will not get to enjoy it.
The rest of us then pick up the story with the 4 metzoraim (traditionally assumed to be Geichazi and his sons) who have been left outside the city as per the rules stated in the parsha. In an act of desperation, facing what they believed to be a die-or-die situation, they dangerously entered the camp of Aram, only to find that it had been completely abandoned due to some miraculous delusions of an impending attack. The entire camp was there for the taking, including more than enough produce to alleviate the famine in the city. The skeptical aide was appointed to guard the gates where he was trampled to death, thereby fulfilling Elisha's prophecy.
With imminent death by hunger along with the sword of Aram at their throat, one is inclined to be somewhat sympathetic to the skepticism of the king's aide. But there is still no excuse to doubt the word of HaShem. One can only imagine a navi walking into Auschwitz on January 26, 1945 and proclaiming that not only will you be liberated tomorrow by none other than the Soviet Red Army but in just a matter of years, the nations of the world will decide to grant the Jews an autonomous homeland in Israel. Who would have had the strength to believe it? But so it happened, further evidence of what we proclaim every year at the seder – vehaKadosh Baruch Hu matzilaynu miyadam.
The haftarah ends in a rather puzzling manner. The introductory story which us non-Yemenites had skipped is repeated nearly word-for-word as we are told of the demise of the king's aide. Why is this necessary? What is the purpose of the last three pesukim? Perhaps, the lesson is that when the going is good, even after a great salvation, it is all too easy to forget our previous circumstances and how far we've come. As I have noted previously, the maror at the seder is meant to remind us of the bitterness of the subjugation in Mitzrayim. But it is clear (Shemos 12:8) that even the korban Pesach eaten on their way out of Mitzrayim was eaten with maror! Remembering our previous dire circumstances and how distant salvation seemed helps us continue to appreciate the deliverance that ensued.