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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.
One of the Torah’s fundamental principles, cited in Parshas Mishpatim, is the concept of eyen tachas eyen, shayn tachas sheyn – that the Torah ascribes punishments on a mida k’neged midah basis. Nevertheless, within this framework, we understand that the Torah does not literally call for blinding one who blinds or cutting off the arm of one who steals, rather monetary damages are paid to the victim of a crime by the perpetrator. This doctrine is consistent with the Torah’s approach to the Eved Ivri. (21:2) There are two ways in which a person can become an Eved Ivri. Either, one chooses to sell himself so as to eliminate the burden of supporting himself for a period of time or Bais Din may sell someone into avdus if they steal and are unable to payback.
What seems completely inconsistent with this approach is what happens to the eved if after six years he says ahafti es adoni - I love my master and do not want to go free. In such a situation, the Torah prescribes that we drill a hole through his ear at the doorpost. (21:6). Rashi deals with this seemingly literal and draconian punishment by quoting R’Yochanan Ben Zacai who stated we drill his ear for having heard at Har Sinai “Thou shalt not steal” or he heard “Bnei Yisroel are avadim to me”. We drill his ear for not obeying the commandments that his ear heard. This explanation leaves two puzzling questions. Why, in this unique circumstance, does the Torah abandon its policy of monetary payments for damages and second why is this “drilling” done now? The eved violated these commandments six years ago when he was first sold. We should have drilled his ear at that time.
In answering these questions we need to understand that the Torah’s concept of onesh is primarily to provide a kaparah for the baal aveira and secondarily to compensate the victim. (Gemarah, Meseches Yoma 86a) In each case of the eved, the Torah initially prescribes an onesh which accomplishes both – by selling a thief into avdus the victim is repaid and in either case of one who is sold, the embarrassment of being an eved is a kaparah for the aveira. However, if at the end of six years the eved says ahafti es adoni, then we see that the onesh was no onesh at all!! He enjoyed his punishment. In such a case, it is clear that the Torah’s preferred method of onesh did not work – there has been no suffering to endure if on balance he would rather stay an eved. Since the primary purpose is to achieve kaparah we must resort to a more literal punishment.
This is but one more example of the measure of love Hashem has for each one of us. Even at times of aveira it is the ratzon Hashem that we have a kaparah and cleanse our neshama from the blemish which a chet leaves behind. May we all be zocheh to appreciate the love that Hashem has for all of us and be more careful in keeping all of his Mitzvos so we need not constantly take advantage of his great love and leniency.
 It is a curiosity why according to Reb Yochanan ben Zakai we would not give Malkus at this time – the traditional punishment for violating a negative prohibition in the Torah. Perhaps Malkus is only appropriately given at the time of the offense.