972. Chanukah

138:10 The practice is for the Chasan Torah and the Chasan Bereishis to pledge donations. They call all their friends for a joyous feast  to celebrate finishing the Torah and starting it again from the beginning.  This is based on a Midrash about the juxtaposition of “he will come to Jerusalem and will stand before the ark of G-d’s covenant” and “he will make there a feast for all his servants.”  Rabbi Yitzchak says that we derive from this that we make a feast upon completing the Torah.

139:1 During the time of the Second Temple, the Syrian-Greek empire made decrees against the Jews in an attempt to dismantle their religion. They did not allow them to study Torah or to perform the mitzvos.  They confiscated the Jews’ property and abused their daughters. They entered the Temple, caused much damage and rendered ritually pure things unclean. The Jews were in much distress because of them. They were greatly oppressed until G-d had mercy on them, delivered them from their hands and saved them. The sons of the Hasmonean High Priest rose up and killed the enemy, saving the Jews from their hands. They appointed a king from among the kohanim and the kingdom of Israel was restored for more than 200 years until the second Temple was destroyed.

When the Jews overcame and destroyed their enemies, it was the 25th day of the month of Kislev. They entered the Sanctuary and did not find any pure olive oil for the Menorah except for one jar that was sealed with seal of the Kohein Gadol (High Priest). This jar only contained enough oil to light for one day but they lit the Menorah from it for eight days until they could and produce a new batch of pure oil. Because of all this, the Sages of that generation decreed that the eight-day period beginning on 25 Kislev would be days of joy and praise. We lights lamps in the evening at the entrance to our houses on each of these  eight nights to demonstrate and publicize the miracle. These days are called Chanukah, meaning “they rested on the 25th” because that was the day on which they rested from their enemies. It is also called Chanukah (meaning a dedication) because on those days they re-dedicated the Temple, which the enemy had defiled. For this reason, some say that it is a mitzvah to slightly increase our meals on Chanukah. Another reason is because the work of building the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was completed during these days. One should tell his children of the miracles that were performed for our ancestors in those days; they are described in the writings of Josephus. In any event, meals are not considered a mitzvah  unless they include songs of praise. One should increase his giving of charity during Chanukah because this can help to repair any spiritual defects one might have. In particular, this charity should be used to support poor Torah scholars.