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by Efraim Levine

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It is noteworthy that just about every Jewish holiday has its own mesechtah. For example the laws of Shabbos are outlined in mesechtah Shabbos. The laws of Pesach are outlined in mesechtah Pesachim. The laws of Purim are outlined in mesechtah Megillah. The same is true for the remainder of the holidays. The commentators explain that even the festival of Shavuos is matched with mesechtah Shivuos. Although it is true that the two are pronounced differently and the holiday of Shavuos is translated as “weeks” whereas the mesechtah Shivuos is translated as “oaths,” nevertheless the commentators explain the main theme of the holiday of Shavuos is the oath we took to fulfill Hashem commandments. It the words of Chazal, “mushpah ve’omed bahar Sinai.” i.e., we have already sworn [to fulfill Hashem’s commandments when we stood] on mount Sinai. Therefore, this together with the fact that the two share to same letters, the holiday of Shavuos is matched with mesechtah Shivuos. However, there does appear to be an exception; Chanukah. The holiday of Chanukah does not have its own mesechtah.

Harav Shimshon Dovid Pinkas z”tl notes that although Chanukah does not have its own mesechtah its detailed laws are outlined in second chapter of mesechtah Shabbos. This is the same chapter that discusses the laws of the Shabbos candles. By incorporating the laws of Chanukah in mesechtah Shabbos, Chazal have indicated that the candles of Chanukah are strongly related to the Shabbos candles. Chazal are telling us that the candles of Chanukah are not an entirely new phenomenon that warrants its own mesechtah but rather just a subcategory of the Shabbos candles.

Using this idea let us suggest the following. We are aware that the main purpose of the Shabbos candles is to increase peace in the home. If there is sufficient light in the home then the family may properly enjoy Shabbos. This in turn will remove any domestic strife. Likewise the purpose of the Chanukah candles is also to increase peace. However there is a difference. The Shabbos candles are placed inside the home whereas the Chanukah candles are placed outside the entrance of the home toward the street. By lighting the Chanukah candles in the street we symbolically express our desire to increase peace, not in the home but in the world.

Chazal teach us that there are two apertures in the Beis Hamikdash that are symbolic of Torah. The first is the aron and the second is the menorah. The aron is symbolic of the written Torah whereas the menorah is symbolic of the oral Torah. We may note that just as the menorah was lit daily and burned continuously, likewise, the oral Torah must be studied daily and continuously.

The fact the miracle of Chanukah occurred through the miraculous lighting of the menorah indicates that the victory of the Jewish people over the Syrian Greeks was strongly related to the studying of the Oral Torah.

Combing the two ideas presented above, namely, that that the lighting of the menorah is an expression of our desire to increase peace in the world and that the lighting of the menorah is symbolic of the studying of the oral Torah brings to mind a popular dictum of Chazal that captures both these ideas. Chazal teach us, “Students of Torah increase peace in the world.” When we light the Menorah we are in effect reaffirming our belief in the fact the studying of Torah brings peace to the world.

However, what exactly does it mean that the studying of Torah brings peace to the world? In order to gain new insight into this dictum we need to understand the miracle of Chanukah and the nature of the victory of the Jews over the Syrian Greeks

We learn from Chazal and from history that it was not the wish of the Syrian Greeks to physically destroy the Jewish people. Likewise it was not their wish to destroy our Torah. The objective of the Syrian Greeks was to prevent the actual fulfillment and performance of the Mitzvos of the Torah. According to the Syrian Greeks Torah may exist and even be studied but may not be used as a guide for life. The Syrian Greeks believed that there are two separate worlds, the mundane world and the spiritual world. Each world must be separate, distinct and independent of the other. When one is preoccupied in self-indulgence there is no room for spirituality. The pleasures of this world must be enjoyed for their own sake. Likewise, when one is involved in spiritual matters there is no room for the mundane. Pure spirituality does not tolerate any trace of the mundane. The Torah teaches us otherwise. The Torah teaches us that the purpose of spirituality is to elevate the mundane. According to the Syrian Greeks the two worlds are at war and can never be reconciled. The Torah teaches us how to make “peace” between the two worlds. The secret of producing this harmony only comes from diligent toil in Torah study. Only through Torah study one can learn how to harmonize and synthesize the mundane with the spiritual. A student of the Torah serves as a model and example of peace and thus promotes true peace in the world.

Shabbos Chanukah is unique in that it is the time when every Jewish home has two sets of candles lit. The Shabbos candles increase peace in the home. The Chanukah candles are a symbolic gesture that it is our desire to increase peace in the world through Torah. Shabbos Chanukah is the epitome of Shabbos Shalom.

Indeed we pray, that may Hashem who makes peace in his abode, bring peace upon us, and upon all of Yisroel. 


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Efraim Levine 5761/2001