Golden Menorah

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29 Jun 2006

The Golden Menorah in the Beit HaMikdash represents the wisdom of Torah. The miracle of Chanukah is the miracle of the Jewish victory over the Greeks’ attempt to force the Jewish people to abandon and forget the Torah. Despite the fierce effort of the Greeks and their Jewish Hellenist allies to destroy every shred of Jewish loyalty to Torah, the Torah and its wisdom survived.

When the Romans destroyed the Bait HaMikdash in the year 70, the entire elaborate system of worship, sacrifice, music, ceremony and prayer ceased to be in effect. The only two functions of the Bait HaMikdash which survived its destruction were the Blessing of the Kohanim and the Golden Menorah. How did the Golden Menorah survive? From functioning as an instrument for the Tzibur — the totality of the Jewish People and the Torah of Klal Yisrael -the Menorah was transformed into functioning as an instrument for each individual Jew. Now it would cast the light of Torah in each individual Jewish home.

“How would, you feel,” asks Rav Hutner, “were the Golden Menorah of the Bait HaMikdash placed in your home? You would be overwhelmed, you would not know what to do with yourself.” This is exactly what happened, and this is the real miracle of Chanukah — the Chanukah Menorah in each Jewish home is the continuation of the Golden Menorah of the Bait HaMikdash. By lighting the Chanukah Menorah we bring the holiness of the Bait HaMikdash and the eternity and indestructibility of Torah wisdom into our homes. We are able to say of our Chanukah lights that which we were only able to say of the Temple Menorah, “These lights are holy, we have no authority to make use of their light, only to see them.”

Why are we not allowed to make use of the Chanukah lights? Because they represent the “or ganuz,” the hidden light, that was concealed for the righteous in the world to come. If the Chanukah lights represent the hidden light, why are we allowed to see them at all? Because the light of the Golden Menorah also represented the eternity and indestructibility of Torah. The Menorah brings us the Divine promise that the light of Torah will always overcome the attempts of the world’s civilizations to impose their culture on us, no matter how sophisticated or intellectual they may be. The Menorah declares that the Jewish people are an eternal people that will survive the attempt of each major world civilization to destroy us. The ultimate Temple is the Torah purity of our homes and our hearts; it is for this reason that we bring the Menorah into our homes and are permitted to see its light.

The ultimate miracle of Chanukah is not that oil sufficient only for one day burned for eight days. Miracles were common in the Bait HaMikdash; the Bait HaMikdash was a higher realm, where miracles were a daily occurrence. The real miracle of the Menorah is that Israel and Torah survived. The miracle of Chanukah is the transformation of the Tzibur’s mitzvah of the Golden Temple Menorah into the personal Menorah lit in each Jewish home. The real Chanukah miracle is the ability of every Jew to bring the light of Torah into his or her home, despite the fact that the Temple was defiled by the Greeks and destroyed by the Romans. The eternal people lives on in the face of exile and persecution, despite the fact that the Temple lies in ruins, because Torah is eternal.

The building of the Temple and the lighting of the Golden Menorah will happen when the majority of the Jewish people light the Menorah in individual homes and hearts. During this time when the light of the Torah is almost extinguished, we need to do precisely what the Maccabees did — re-light it through our idealism and dedication.