Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The essence of Chanukah — beyond definitions

It says that when Mashiach comes, Purim and Chanukah will be the holidays to be celebrated.

Why? Because in their essence lies what geulah and the Era of Mashiach are all about. In Purim it’s the idea of the concealment of the essence — that in the place where G-d is concealed the most, He is present the most. This happened in the story of Purim, in which G-d is not mentioned yet was directly present. As Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches us, Purim is similar — even higher than — Yom Kippur in the sence that on it the Essence of G-d (above revelation in Seider Hishtalshelus, the Chain of the Worlds) is revealed.

In Chanukah we see the second idea of the Era of Mashiach — combinations of two opposites. As Rabbi Paltiel explains (the same link as in the last post), quoting various sources, the oil of the miracle of Chanukah could not itself be miraculous. It had to be natural oil in order to be kosher. Nor could the fire be miraculous in order for lightning of menorah to be kosher — it had to be a regular fire that burnt oil.

So, how was it possible for the miracle to occur — and, most importantly, what was the miracle?

* * *

There are two types of miracles: open and concealed. Open miracles involve revealed violation of the laws of nature. It is the nature of water to flow — yet, during the parting of the Yam Suf, water of the sea stood in two walls, waiting for Jews to cross. This kind was an open miracle.

The other type is a concealed miracle. In theory, everything can be explained through the natural order of events — laws of physics are not violated, nothing supernatural happens. Yet, we know that G-d was directly involved and was openly orchestrating the events. (How do we know? Well, first of all, we are told by our chochamim, whose word is the law. Second, the coincidence of events is too strange to put on chance — and if a Jew already believes in G-d, it is clear to him that here we have a clear, obvious, revealed case of Divine Providence.)

An example of this is the story of Purim, which is a microcosm of the whole Jewish history. Another example are numerous cases of hashgacha protis that occur in our everyday lives. Sure, were we cynics and heretics (G-d forbid), we could attribute them to chance, fate, “freaky occurences”, etc., but since we believe in G-d, we see that here was the case when G-d revealed Himself (as opposed to running the world in a concealed way) — but within nature, without breaking its laws.

The second kind of miracle is actually greater than the first. But a greater type yet is when two opposite things contradicting each other happen. A and B cannot coexist, yet they are clearly happening at the same time. This is not just laws of physics being suspended for some time. Nor is this events happening in such a way that it seems that someone is clearly pulling the strings above. No — what it happening is that according to logic, A cannot happen at the same time as B, yet here we are.

One example of that was the fact that Aron Koidesh did not take space in Beis HaMikdosh. If you measured from wall of the Temple to the Ark’s left side, it was (let’s say) 10 units. Same thing on the other side. Yet, the total width of the room was 20 units.

Another example is when Jews were standing outside of the Temple, and the Kohen Godol (who, by the way, has just opened Aron Koidesh to have an interview with HaKadosh Boruchu) came out and said G-d’s Name — at which point everybody fell on his knees and bowed. The trick is: before, they were standing shoulder to shoulder, nose to back of the head. No room for an apple to fall. And once G-d’s Name was pronounced, they were able to bow, and everyone had enough space.

In both these examples, it’s not the case that laws of nature were revoked and the idea of space disappeared. Nor was it the case the more space appeared. No, the space was there — yet, somehow, its internal logic was violated. Things were in space, yet at the same time not in space.

* * *

In Chanukah, the same thing happened. The oil was a regular oil (not an oil that was able to burn for longer time) and was burning with a regular fire (not a fire that was consuming less oil to burn). Yet, at the same time as the oil was burning, it was not burning at the same time — lasting, as a result, for eight days. This was happening in the regular good ol’ oil, within parameters of laws of physics — and at the same time, oil was not being depleted by the same process.

Impossible? Bizarre? Contradicting laws of logic? Reminds you of TARDIS? Exactly. That’s Essence of G-d for you. (OK, maybe not the last part.)

This is why both Purim and Chanukah are so extremely tied with Redemption and coming of Mashiach. In the times of Mashiach, the same thing will be happening. This world, independent from G-d, concealing Him and having its own existence and form, will be there — and at the same time, it will reveal in itself the Essence of G-d, pure, simple, undefinable, infinite and finite at the same time. It will be revealed within the existing, not nullified world that ein od milvado — nothing exists besides G-d. And this will be the greatest miracle of all. And at this point, the purpose of creation and existence of the world and of all us will revealed. And on this day, He and His Name will be One.

May this come now!

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