Can I have a dvar Torah on any topic relating to chanukah?
He is an idea regarding Chanukah.
There are many lessons to learn from the story of חנוכה, but I would like to concentrate now on a new idea, one that is especially applicable to women. There is something called מדרש חנוכה (ב’), and it says there at the beginning of the midrash:
אמרו בואו ונחדש עליהם גזירות עד שיבעטו האלוקיהם, ויאמינו. עמדו וגזרו, ” כל בן ישראל שעושה בריח או מסגר לפתחו ידקר בחרב”, וכל כך למה? כדי שלא יהיה לישראל כבוד…, שכל בית שאין לו דלת אין לו כבוד ואין לו צניעות, וכל הרוצה ליכנס נכנס בין ביום ובין בלילה, כיון שראו ישראל כך, עמדו ובטלו כל דלתות בתיהם, ולא היו יכולים לא לאכול ולא לשתות ולא לשמש מטותיהם בשביל גנבים ולסטים ופריצי יוונים, ולא רואים שינה בעיניהם לא יום ולא לילה… אמרו לפניו רבש”ע במה אנו יכולים לסבול? אמר להם להם בעוון מזוזה אלא אעפ”כ רווחה תמצאו בגזרה זו. ועמדו בגזירה זו ג’ שנים. כיון שראו… עמדו וגזרו, “כל אדם מישראל שיש לו שה או שור יחקק על קרניו אין לו חלק באלוקי ישראל.”
The Greeks said to each other, “Let’s decree on the Jews decrees that will make the angry with their g-d and they will come and worship our gods. So they decreed, “Any Jew that will have a closed or locked door will be killed with a sword”. Why did they do this? In order that the Jews shouldn’t have dignity or tznius, because any home that doesn’t have a door doesn’t have any dignity or tznius, and anyone who wants to enter by day or night can. When the Jews heard this, they removed all the doors from their homes, and they couldn’t eat or drink or do other private things, because the goyim and robbers of the Greeks. And they couldn’t sleep not by day or by night. And they said to Hashem, how much can we bear? He told them, it is because of the mitzvah of mezuzah, but still, you will benefit from this decree. They managed with this for 3 years. When the Greeks saw this, they decreed on them, “anyone in that has an ox or a lamb should inscribe on its horns that I don’t have any part in the G-d of the Jews…”.
We see from this that the first line of attack that the Greeks used to dig their claws into the Jews was to attack the sanctity of the Jewish home. Our home is the greenhouse where we can build our holy world and live our lives the way Hashem want us to, it is the fortress where we gather our strength to withstand the temptations and lifestyle of the goyim. And it is the “door that is what keeps the negative ideas of the goyim outside of our homes and our lives. Of course this doesn’t only mean the actual door, rather the door is the represents our attitude, that our homes are to be separated from the goyim and the street.
When the Torah describes the difference between יעקב and עשו, it says that עשו is איש שדה, a man of the field- everything about him is open, everything is exposed. He doesn’t have anything of value that he has to hide and protect, however יעקב on the other hand is איש תם יושב אוהליםa complete person- who sits inside his home.
The Jewish home is full of values, emuna, yiras shomayim, midos tovos, respect for others, and for parents. It is full of bitachon, of mesorah, and of building our part of עולם הבא. It is the place where we can raise our children with all of these values, and the greenhouse where we can create the right “climate”, for us to raise our children.
It is interesting that we see that wherever יעקב went the Torah makes a point of telling us that he built a בית. When he came to Shechem, he built a בית, and when he went down to Mitzrayim, he sent Yehuda to prepare a בית for him. And it is Yackov who is the one who all of his children came out alright. This is extremely important nowadays. In our generation, we need to do a lot more than just have a front door, there are many other ways that the Yetzer Hora has to bring bad things into our home and minds, television, internet, magazines, newspapers. It is our job to make sure that we filter out anything that is not on the level of what we want our children to see and be influenced by.
What was the reason for this terrible decree? It was because they weren’t careful with the mitzvah of mezuzah. What is so hard about the mitzvah, we just get a hold of one and nail it to the door? I think the idea here is that they were lax in the message of the mezuzah. What does it say in the mezuzah? There are two parshios in the mezuzah, the first one is שמע, which teaches us to have emuna in Hashem, and that Hashem is the only source of everything. The second one is והיה עם שמוע, the acceptance of the mitzvos. When we attach the mezuzah to our doorpost we are making a statement, “this area is governed by the Ribono Shel Olam, and it runs according to his rules, because in this area He is the boss”. The mezuzah is like the sign on the door of who lives here – Hashem!
The parsha of שמע, talks about the mitzvah of 1. Loving Hashem, 2. Learning Torah, 3. Tefillin, 4. Mezuzah. The gemorah discusses whether woman are obligated to do the mitzvah of mezuzah. On one hand there is reason to say that they are exempt from it, since women are exempt from the mitzvah of learning Torah (they have to know the halachos that are applicable to them, but they don’t have a mitzvah to learn all the time etc.) and from tefillin, so maybe they are exempt from the mezuzah also? The Bavli and Yerushalmi give two different answers. The Bavli says that the mezuzah is there to protect us, and women need protection just as much as men do. The Yerushalmi says that since it says “וכתבתם על מזוזת ביתך” “write it in the doorpost of your home”, and the woman is called the “home”. There was an Amora that said, I never called my wife אשתי, “wife”, rather I always called her “my home”. I once heard, that someone drove R’ S. Z. Auerbach home after his wife was nifter, and he asked him where his home is, and he didn’t answer, and when he asked again and again, he finally answered, “ I don’t have a home, I live at this address”.
The woman of the home is the one who gives the home it’s life, she is the one who takes care of it, and she is attached to her home much more than the man is. For example, when a woman talks about the refrigerator or stove, she will say, my stove, my refrigerator, my towels, my silverware etc. However the man will often say, the fridge, the stove etc. This is not because women are possessive, just the opposite, they are full of chesed. It is because a man sees his home merely as the place that he lives whereas a woman relates to her home as an extension of herself.
I once heard from a Gadol, that although women don’t officially have the mitvah of tefillin, but their tefillin is the mitzvah of mezuzah! To explain, what is the mitzvah of tefillin, to take the parsha of Shema and והיה עם שמוע, (and two others), and to tie it to our body, and bind ourselves with the ideas of these פרשיות. When we attach a mezuzah to the door of our home, being that the woman is the home, when we attach the mezuzah to the door we are attaching it to her, and now she is bound to these ideas, just like our tefillin. (Just the woman has this mitzvah 24/7, much more than a man’s tefillin which is only by day and not on Shabbos.
The mezuzah is the protector of the Jewish home. We write H-shem’s name on the outside of the mezuzah, we write ש-ד-י, this name stands for שומר דלתות ישראל, “The protector of the doors of the Jews”. There is a story brought in the gemora about Onkelos the ger, who was a nephew of the Roman emperor, and he was upset that he became a ger. He sent a bunch of soldiers to bring him, and when they were about to leave the house he asked them, who protects who, the king protects the individual person of the person is supposed to protect the king. They answered him the people protect the king. Then he should them the mezuzah, and he told them, “by us Hashem who is the king stands on the outside and protects us”, and they all became geirim!
Similar to the mezuzah, the woman is the protector of her husband, (although on a superficial level it look like the opposite). The gemorah (יבמות ס”ב:)that “(מי שאין לו אשה) כמי שאין לו חומה… דכתיב (ירמיה לא-כב) נקבה תסובב גבר ” “(One who doesn’t have a wife) is like one who doesn’t have a wall, like the posuk says, like a woman who surrounds the man”. By the way this is the reason the kallah walks around the husband 7 times, like a wall that protects. It is the woman who protects her home from unwanted influences. Sarah was he one who understood that Yishmael wasn’t good for Yitzchok, and it was Rivka who understood who עשו was. It says that the woman can see and understand who the guest are.
Chanukah is a mitzvah on the בית, on the home. The main mitzvah is “נר איש וביתו”, a candle for the whole house. A person that doesn’t have a home for whatever reason, i.e. he is traveling through the night, is not obligated to light the menorah because he has no home. Also, the menorah is to be placed opposite the mezuzah. The menorah is also especially applicable to women, as it is the women’s minhag not to do מלאכה during the half hour that the candles are burning. This gives them extra time to think about this idea; that the original decree was to get us to assimilate, and remove the door, our protector from the outside influences, and that is a way is part of her job, to protect herself, her husband, and her family.