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Chazal tell us that after the Cashmonoyim were victorious over the Syrian-Greeks, the kohanim entered the Beis Hamikdash and found only one flask of oil that was sealed with the signet of the kohen gadol. However, the flask did not contain enough oil for the menorah to burn even one day. The commentators note that the lighting of the menorah was not necessarily associated with the kohen gadol. Why then was this particular flask sealed with the signet of the kohen gadol. Secondly, if the oil was set aside for the lighting of the menorah, why was a sealed container not enough to last even one day? Didnít a sealed container of oil prepared for menorah contain at least one dayís worth of oil? A third unrelated question is why specifically in connection to Chanukah do find so many laws relating to the different levels of beatification, something we donít find in connection to other holidays or at least not to such a degree.
The commentators answer by explaining that the oil found was not originally set aside for the menorah but specifically designated for the chaveatei kohen gadol.
Everyday the kohen gadol would offer a meal offering consisting of twelve loaves of bread. Six were offered in the morning and six in the afternoon. The ingredients of these breads include flour and oil. Chazal teach us the oil used for the meal offering of the kohen gadol may be ordinary oil unlike the oil used for the lighting of the menorah which must be pure olive oil. Pure olive oil is derived from the first drops of oil that ooze when pressing olives. Regular oil is derived from oil that is oozes after the olives are crushed. Furthermore, the volume of oil required for the meal offering of the kohen gadol is exactly three lugim, whereas, the menorah requires three and a half lugim. Each lamp requires a half a lug. When we multiply the seven lamps of the menorah by one-half lug the total is three and a half lugim. It emerges that the oil set aside by the kohen gadol for his daily meal offering was not fit for the menorah because it lacks both the quality and quantity of oil needed for the menorah.
At the time of the Chanukah miracle it was the custom of the kohen gadol to beautify his daily meal offering and use pure olive oil. This oil was fit even for the lighting of menorah.
With this idea the commentators answer all three questions. The reason the container of oil had the seal of the kohen gadol was because this oil belonged to kohen gadol and was originally intended for his daily meal offering. The second question as to why it was not enough for even one day is also answered. The oil used for the meal offering of the kohen gadol was a half a lug short of what was needed for the menorah. The third question as to why on Chanukah we beautify the mitzvah in various degrees is answered as well. The only reason the oil of meal offering of the kohen gadol was fit for the menorah was because the kohen gadol beautified his mitzvah by bringing oil of better quality then was required. We commemorate this by also performing the mitzvah with various degrees of beautification.
We can now ask, what is the significance that the miracle of Chanukah came about specifically through the meal offering of the Kohen Gadol? Hashem has no limitations in how he brings about miracles. In bringing about the miracle specifically through oil used for the meal offering of the kohen gadol we derive that there is an important relationship between the miracle of Chanukah and the meal offering of the kohen gadol. What is this relationship?
Regarding the meal offering of the Kohen gadol there is a unique law. The basic offering consists of twelve loaves of bread. Six are offered in the morning and six in the afternoon. The total volume is one eísaron of flour and three logim of oil. The Gemara suggests that kohen gadol be permitted to bring in the morning a half eísaron of flour and one and a half lugim of oil and prepare the six breads of the morning offering. Later in the afternoon the kohen gadol would bring from his home the other half eísaron of flour and the other one and a half lugim of oil and prepare the other six breads for the meal offering of the afternoon. The Gemara ultimately rejects this notion by interpreting the related posukim. The Gemara concludes that law requires that the complete measure of flour and oil must be brought to Beis Hamikdash in the morning and sanctified specifically for this offering. At that point all twelve loaves of bread are prepared and half are offered. The other six loaves are put away for later. It is noteworthy that no other offering is put away for later. Only the second set of meal offering breads offered by the kohen gadol are prepared and put away for later.
We may suggest that this is the nature of the Chanukah miracle. The miracle of Chanukah represents the story of Jewish survival. We say in our Chanukah prayers that although the Syrian-Greeks attempted to cause us to forget the Torah, Hashem saved us. He delivered the mighty in the hands of weak, the many in the hands of the few, the impure in the hands of the pure, the wicked in the hands of the righteous, etc. The miracle was not a one time event that only occurred in the days of the Cashmonoyim. The miracle was like the meal offering of the kohen gadol. Some of the breads were offered immediately and the others were put away for later. Likewise, every year we re-experience the miracle again in another dimension. We survive against all odds. We draw from what was put away for us at the time of the Cashmonoyim.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5764/2003