We all know the story of Chanukah, the Jews defeated the mighty Greek army and returned to the Beis Hamikdash. When they came to light the Menorah, they could not find any pure oil to light it with until, after a long search, they found enough oil to last one night. They lit the Menorah and the oil lasted miraculously for eight days. To commemorate this great miracle, we celebrate eight nights of Chanukah. There is a very famous question from the Beis Yosef concerning these eight nights. While the Menorah stayed lit for eight days, the actual miracle only lasted for seven nights as there was already enough oil to last for one night! So really we should celebrate seven nights, not eight?
There are literally hundreds of answers to this question. I have decided to use the answer found in the Kedushas Levi, written by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Mi’Berditchev, for this Dvar Torah.
He explains that we are really commemorating two miracles here. The first day commemorates the miracle of the battle against the Greeks. The fact that Hashem helped us defeat the much stronger and larger Greek army is reason enough to establish a chag. The other seven days represent the miracle of the Menorah. So the eight days of Hallel and Thanksgiving are for both these reasons, the miracle of the war and the miracle of the Menorah.
According to this explanation, another question arises. If the miracle of the Menorah has nothing to do with the first night of Chanukah, then why do we light the Menorah on that night? The Kedushas Levi answers that once the nation saw the miracle of the oil, they realized that the entire Chanukah miracle, including the battle, was only through the zchus of the menorah. What exactly does this mean? What is so special about the Menorah that we had the miracles of the war and the oil because of it?
When the Greeks came and took over the Beis Hamikdash, they did not allow any of the daily service to continue. Korbanos, the Ketores, the Levi’im’s singing, the lighting of the Menorah, they were all discontinued. The Bnei Yisrael had no opportunity to even commemorate any of these services as they are all specific to the Beis Hamikdash, except the Menorah. When we light Shabbos candles or the Ner Tamid in Shul, they fulfill the same purpose as the Menorah, to have candles of Kedushah lit at all times, even outside of the Beis Hamikdash.
If there is something you really want that is sitting right in front of you, and you cannot get to it, it makes it even more precious to you. That is Hashem’s attitude towards our Shabbos candles, they remind Him of the holy lights of the Menorah that were lit in the Beis Hamikdash, making them more precious to Him than any other part of the Avodah. During the time of Greek occupation, the Jews would light their Shabbos candles and think longingly of the Beis Hamikdash and the opportunity to once again do the Avodah. Because this longing came through the lights of the candles, Hashem brought the Beis Hamikdash back through the zchus of the Menorah’s light.
What an idea to take into Shabbos Chanukah! Both the Shabbos and Chanukah candles remind Hashem of the Beis Hamikdash and show our desire to once again perform the Avodah. What better time to act on this than the time when we light both of these candles. So when you light your Chanukah candles this week, realize that they don’t just symbolize the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days or even the Menorah itself, they represent the entire service done in the Beis Hamikdash. May this Chanukah bring the Geulah which we have all been waiting for.
Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!