Miketz (Chanukah) 5752: Oil and the Annointed One

Chanukah commemorates and publicizes the miracle of the oil which lasted for eight days.  Oil is unique in that it is an edible substance, but it is never consumed alone.  We add oil to foods, and it enhances them, but oil by itself is harmful to a person.  Thus, it is demands explanation why the festival of Chanukah is celebrated with oil and not with a festive meal (consisting of bread, wine, and water) as all other festivals are (including Purim, which is similar to Chanukah in many ways).

Let us examine these substances, all of which serve as a moshol for Torah:

Bread and water are a perquisite for life — a person must have bread to eat and water to drink in order to survive. This refers to the revealed Torah, which is necessary for a Jew in order to know how to fulfill the mitzvos.

Wine is a luxury, one can subsist without it.  Nonetheless, it adds enthusiasm and pleasure to the meal.  This corresponds to the secrets of Torah.

Oil is also not essential, but is only consumed in very small quantities that are added to other foods.  The oil refers to the “secrets of the secrets” of the Torah.

Chanukah is commemorated with oil because it is the first step in the revelation of Pnimiyus Hatorah, the inner dimension of Torah which was first “squeezed out of the olives” through the self-sacrifice of the Maccabees as they stood firm and battled the Yavanim, the Greeks (and their Jewish Hellenist supporters) who accepted only the most superficial perspective of Torah.  (And in fact, the oil is commemorated through the candles, and not through eating; the Jewish custom of eating foods cooked in oil (latkes and sufganyiot) shows the inclination and desire to internalize this aspect of Torah which evolved in subsequent generations.)

Oil, the “secrets of the secrets” of Torah, became progressively more revealed: first through Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and the Zohar; later through the teachings of the Arizal; next came the revelations of Chassidus through the Baal Shem Tov; and then Chassidus Chabad, which brings the teachings of Pnimiyus Hatorah in a way which can be consumed and internalized (and not just observed, like candles).  This progressive development in the revelation of the inner dimension of Torah is associated with Moshiach, for the term Moshiach itself means “anointed” (with oil).

Oil can be burned to provide light which illuminates the darkness.  As the darkness of exile increases, there is a greater need for a greater amount of oil (meaning an increase in the learning of Pnimiyus Hatorah).  In these last moments of exile, when the darkness is greatest, there is a greater need than ever for oil, to the point where the Rebbe says that oil is in fact a necessity in our times.  In fact, as far as fighting darkness goes, Pnimiyus Hatorah is more necessary than the revealed Torah.

The revelation of the “oil” of Torah at Chanukah and (even more so on) Yud Tes Kislev is (not only due to the need  that is generated by the increasing darkness of the world, but rather) also and primarily due to the fact that we are proceeding and coming closer to the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, who is called “Moshiach” because he is “anointed” with oil…and through him comes the main and complete revelation of the oil (secrets of the secrets) of Torah…for the main study in the days of Moshiach will be in the secrets of the secrets of Torah.  (As stated in Igeres Hakodesh 26: “They will know all the fundamentals of the revealed plane of the Torah from Pnimiyus Hatorah“.)

Not only is the implication that the “oil” of Torah is coming as an antidote to the increasing darkness, but the Rebbe notes that:

Our approach to the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu is also the reason for the strengthening of the darkness in the world — because it is due to the strengthening of holiness that there comes about a strengthening of the opposing side, which opposes the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, and there is a need to fight with the opponent, and this is the idea that “he [Moshiach] fights the wars of Hashem” until “he is victorious”.

The wars of Moshiach are fought by “the soldiers of the house of Dovid“, which in recent generations was the intent of the foundation of Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim by the Rebbe Rashab.  They go out to war against “those who scoff at the footsteps of your anointed one” and are victorious, bringing about the revelation of Dovid, Malka Meshicha.  “And especially in our generation, when all the matters have already been completed, and we need only to ‘open up the eyes’ and to see that ‘behold, this one (Melech Hamoshiach) comes’.”

The Rebbe also touches on the distinction between “ketz haYamim” and “ketz haYamin” (see Tazria-Metzora) the “end” of days (of exile) and the “end” (meaning the beginning) of the “right side” (of the Geuloh).  These correspond with the two reasons for the dissemination of the “oil” of Torah stated above: the strengthening of the darkness and the approach of the coming of Moshiach (and also with this week’s parsha, Miketz).  This issue of the “ketz” takes us out of exile and into Geuloh, which is the subject of the sequence of the Torah portions from last week, Vayeshev, through the next three weeks into Vayechi:

…[these parshas] are connected with the subject of the Geuloh: “Vayeshev Yaakov”, that Yaakov sought to settle in tranquility — the ultimate tranquility of the Messianic Era, since from his side he was already prepared for the Geuloh.  [Footnote 96: As emphasized in parshas Vayishlach — that Yaakov sent messengers to Esav his brother to inform him that the birurim were already finished and the time has arrived that they go together towards the Geuloh…to such a degree that even after the messengers informed him that Esav was not yet refined at all, nonetheless he did not involve himself in “avodas habirurim” but rather he sent an offering, “halaas ma’n to elicit ma’d of the makif of Tohu“, in order that he would have the ultimate state of the time-to-come when the transcendent level of Tohu will be drawn down and will be revealed b’pnimiyus in Tikkun.]

From this we proceed to parshas Vayechi, which refers to the “eternal life of Yaakov Avinu in the world of the resurrection.”  (And this includes every Jew, for they are named “Yisroel” after him.)

Even while Yaakov Avinu was in Egypt, and these are referred to as his best years, nonetheless he and his children were not satisfied with this, not satisfied with being that Pharaoh gave them the best land of Egypt, because the main thing by them was the Geuloh.  Thus, “even dwelling in Egypt for a period of time is only for the purpose of bringing the ultimate Geuloh, since through the refinement of Egypt the Geuloh will be in a loftier manner, in the ultimate perfection [in a way which includes the perfection of the intellect].”

The Rebbe concludes that we must strengthen our belief and our anticipation of the coming of Moshiach, to such a degree that he feels that as long as Moshiach Tzidkeinu still didn’t arrive in actuality and in a revealed way, one’s “days” are lacking.  And the main thing: to add in the study and dissemination of Pnimiyus Hatorah, the oil of Torah, in a way where it illuminates the outside (like Chanukah candles), until it brings about the end of “legs of the rebellious ones”.  In this way we can reach the time when “all the fasts will in the future be nullified to* the Days of Moshiach” (Rambam) and not only that, but they will become festival days and days of rejoicing.

* Interesting to note the exact language of the Rambam: that the fast days will be “nullified to” the days of Moshiach (לבטל לימות המשיח, rather than “nullified in”), perhaps implying that they will not be cancelled, but rather the great Divine revelations of the Messianic Era, especially the second stage which brings to Techiyas Hameisim when there is no eating or drinking, will nullify them even without there being any change in them.  This is close to the explanation of Chassidus on the words of the Sages that in the future to come the Festivals will be nullified — not cancelled (G-d-forbid, for they are part of Torah), but rather the Divine revelation which occurs on the festivals will be nullified to the greater revelations of Moshiach, to the point that they will be rendered inconsequential (without being cancelled, like a candle which is overwhelmed by a bonfire).

Kuntres Chanukah, 5752

The lofty level of the Chanukah lights, as explained in the teachings of Chassidus, is connected with the self-sacrifice of the Maccabees, and through this they succeeded to impact and “light up” the public domain (reshus harabim).  We see this in the mitzvah of Chanukah candles, which are intended to publicize the miracle specifically in the public domain.  (The reason that the custom is to light inside the home, not in the public domain, is beyond the scope of this post.)

But why is this only by Chanukah, and not by Purim?  The miracle of Purim, also, was brought about by self-sacrifice; and not only by a small group (Mattisyahu and his children), but by the entire Jewish people.  So why don’t the mitzvas of Purim impact the public domain?

In order to explain this, the Rebbe first explains the three levels stated in Chassidus: Tzaddik, Yoshar, and Chossid, each one on a higher level than the previous.  A Tzaddik has the power to “overrule” the Holy One, blessed be He, as our sages say “The Holy One decrees, and the Tzaddik nullifies the decree”, or “the Tzaddik decrees, and the Holy One fulfills it”.  Yet, the level of Chassidim is even higher, as the verse in Tehillim states: “All your handiwork will thank You, and Your Chassidim will bless you” (Tehillim 145:10), meaning that the blessing of Chassidim draws down from a level which the “your handiwork will thank you” cannot reach.

The level of Chassidim is the level of serving Hashem with bittul (self-nullification) which is from the aspect of etzem (the essence), a level higher than one’s own existence.  In the words of our sages: “Who is a Chosid? One who performs Chesed (giving) with his owner.”  Explains the Rebbe,

Among the reasons that one whose Divine service is (not for himself, but rather) for the sake of Above is called by the name Chosid (from the word chesed, giving) is that since his avodah is with the ultimate self-nullification (bittul), above his own existence, it follows that what he draws down through this avodah is from the [highest of levels, the] level of “Pnimiyus Atik”.

Correspondingly, this level is also reached through the teachings of Chassidus:

The teachings of Chassidus are the aspect of Pnimiyus Atik.  Thus, through the study of teachings of Chassidus and following the ways of Chassidus, the natural powers of the soul (of the one who is involved in Chassidus) become G-dly powers.  Because via what comes down and is revealed from Pnimiyus Atik, he feels (at least in a concealed way) that the true [Divine] existence is his existence.

This revelation which is higher than the limitations of the world (למעלה מהשתלשלות) therefore transcends the boundaries of the world and is found in every place equally.  This is the concept of the lights of Chanukah illuminating the public domain, because they draw down from “Pnimiyus Atik” which is present in all places.

And from this we can understand why the self-sacrifice of Purim did not reach the public domain but on Chanukah it did:

Because the self-sacrifice of Matisyahu and his sons was that despite that they were weak and few; nevertheless, they battled against the mighty and the numerous.  The fact that they performed actions in the natural way (a war) in order to defeat the Greeks, even though according to the natural order there is no chance for the weak and the few to defeat the might and numerous, is because it was taken for granted by them that even nature (of this lowly world where klipos are powerful) is G-dliness.  This deeply ingrained premise derives from the feeling that His Divine True Existence is the existence of all entities.  And because of this, they drew down from the level of Pnimiyus Atik.

What is the lesson here for us?  To serve Hashem as Chassidim, not for our own benefit (whether it be material or spiritual benefit, including the pleasure of “slaking ones thirst for G-dliness”), but rather in a state of self-nullification to do what is needed of us; in a way where we realize that all of existence is, inherently, G-dliness, and therefore we can accomplish our mission even in the “public domain” because it does not really have any separate existence from G-dliness.  Like the Chanukah lights, we can even reveal G-dliness in the public domain that seemingly has an independent existence, for in fact it does not!

This itself is the state of “the time to come”, the true and complete Geulah!