Monday, December 7, 2015

Hanuka and Oil

What Was the Miracle?

Many think that the miracle of Hanuka was having one day's oil last eight. The main miracle of the oil was the great military victory HaShem gave to Israel over the Greeks. How is that a miracle of oil, you might ask? Because an 'ish shemen', that is, an 'oil man', means a warrior.

Having a hard time believing this is the main miracle? Take a look at '`al hanisim' that we add in our prayers during Hanuka. What does it say there? It thanks HaShem for the military victory, the giving over of the wicked, militarily strong, and impure Greeks into the hands of the righteous, militarily small, and pure Jews - and that's it. No mention of the oil lasting eight days, which is minor and secondary.

What is Oil All About?

Let's get right to it about oil. What is oil's significance? What are the deeper meanings and intentions of what we celebrate during Hanuka?

The "shemen mishhath qodhesh", a concoction of spices mixed into olive oil (see Shemoth 30), was used to sanctify Aharon, his sons, and everything in the Mishkan: the Ohel Mo`edh, the alters and their utensils, the menora, etc. This process of sanctification is called 'hanuka', dedication and consecration to HaShem.

Liquttei Halakhoth, written by R' Nathan and which is an explanation of halakha directly from the teachings of R' Nahman, mentions specifically the 'hanukath hamizbeah' (consecration of the alter) which is the purging of the bad, via the holy oil, from out of the good. The initial letters of the verse "mashpil reshaghim `adhei ares (taking down/degrading the wicked until the ground)" spell the initial letters of the four elements, mayim (water), ruah (wind/air), `afar (dirt/dust), esh (fire). These four elements are rooted in the four letters of The Name, and have countless parallels throughout creation (such as the 4 universes, 4 directions, 4 sisith, and the letter dalet which is 4, symbolizing Malkhuth). Thus, the removal of the evil within these causes "HaShem will be one and His Name one" (Zekharya 14:9), the outcome of the redemption.

This process of purging bad from good is called 'birur', clarification. Keep that in mind for a minute, until this all ties together soon.

Hanuka, Hinukh, and Hanokh (Enoch)

As L"H also explains, that the word hanuka is the same as hinukh (education, learning), as the two words share the exact same letters, and in Hebrew such cases are not coincidental. What is hinukh? Hanokh, whose name is the same as hinukh and hanuka. For through limud Torah, especially halakha, we separate and distinguish the bad from the good.

Hanokh became the angel Matat (shortened from his full name which shouldn't be pronounced). Matat, as we learn in Liquttei Moharan, is in charge of the six days of the week, which correspond to the Six Sidhrei Mishna which contain the six aspects of halakha which are mutar-asur (permissible-forbidden), kasher-pasul (valid-invalid or acceptable-unacceptable), tahor-tame (pure-impure).

Through these six, we clarify what is good and what is bad, in all their six facets, which halakha defines. During the six days of the week, we struggle with these six facets (this is also the concept of running and returning), going from one to another, until we reach Shabath which is "entirely good" and spells also "sheveth" (sitting, resting, abstaining from the toil of the six days).

Tying Together Oil and Hanuka-Hinukh-Hanokh

Rabenu teaches that the intellect is like a wick that burns off of oil. Tiqun habrith keeps the oil, the moisture of the body in tact. Pegham habrith, on the other hand, dries it up. When the oil of the body dries up, the wick which is the intellect runs on nothing and this is how insanity forms. This is why a no'ef is truly crazy and insane.

The holy oil, as we already determined, is the substance that consecrates (hanuka-izes, if you will); separating evil from good. This is halakha, the laws of the Torah, which are hinukh, education.

Breath, neshima, directly affects the brain. Taking a deep breath can change your mindset, calm you down, and/or make you a bit more sane during a time of insanity. Free breathing, Rabenu teaches, is akin to tiqun habrith. Frustrated, irregular, or incomplete breathing is akin to pegham habrith.

Neshima is the same word as neshama which one of the higher parts of the soul, and is related to the realm of thought, wisdom, and the intellect. Neshima and neshama (the vowels are not significant, only the consonants which are the real letters in Hebrew), נשם, is שמן (shemen, oil), simply with the nun moved to the front.

Wow... What Can I Do with This?

If you're amazed by the Torah of Rabenu at this point - you should be. However, these amazing concepts are not the point in and of themselves. The point is practical action.

What essential advice can we learn from these concepts that so beautifully flow together and prove to be interrelated in an extraordinary way?

To be an ish shemen, a warrior, and fight to dedicate your body and soul to HaShem by constantly distinguishing between good and evil and acting upon that distinction. There are many specific ways of doing this mentioned and hinted at above. I won't rehash them or explain them further.

Being an ish shemen means being methaqen and shomer habrith, which ties into being a physical warrior as well. The Makabim couldn't have gone out into battle and been victorious without having been shomrei habrith.

Also, in Abir, the tribes of Asher's fighting form is the oil (olive) tree. Asher means fortunate, happy. Joy comes from having oil, from having tiqun habrith, this is the source of all true content, fortune, and happiness. Also, tiqun habrith leads to an expanded sekhel, intellect, wisdom, it leads to da`ath qodhesh, ruah haqodhesh, since there is plenty of oil for the wick of the mind to burn on.

Learn HaShem's Torah, follow it, apply the advice of R' Nahman, be shomer habrith, and do it with enthusiasm, vigor, and joy. Learn how to distinguish between good and bad, whether it be a thought that comes up in your mind, a word that wants to come out of your mouth, or an action you want to do. Constantly refine and clarify, separating bad from good. Learn how to discern from the false leaders, false teachers, false rabbis, and search for and pray you'll find the true Rav, the true Sadiq, and not be swayed to the right or left of HaShem's path.

Have a great Hanuka!

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