Each and every holiday, Rav Yitzchok Hutner writes, has a specific message
or theme at its core. It is a message that is unique to that holiday, and
to truly appreciate the holiday, that unique attribute need be explored.
Chanukah, historically speaking, was the last holiday to be established.
With the establishment of Chanukah as a holiday, the roots of all the
holidays became firmly implanted in Jewish life, and the messages they were
to impart were completed. Obviously, the placement of Chanukah as the final
holiday teaches us something. This lesson we carried with us as a nation
from the time the holiday was established and forward. What is it about
Chanukah that is so significant?
The Greeks, in the days of the Chanukah story, were not interested in the
physical decimation of the nation of Israel. They were interested in the
decimation of the Jewish religion, a spiritual decimation of the nation of
Israel. Adherence to the precepts of the Torah was a punishable offence.
The study of Torah could easily result in a death sentence. However, this
grey cloud had a silver lining, one which had a deep and long-lasting effect.
The study of Torah is central to the life of the nation of Israel. It is of
such importance that the squandering of time, the simple loss of
opportunity to study Torah, is a sin. However, Rav Hutner points out there
are situations where the loss of Torah study actually results in greater
perpetuation of Torah study. We find an example of this dichotomy by the
breaking of the Luchos, the tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were
inscribed. On one hand, we find that G-d "praised," so to speak, the
breaking of the Luchos by Moshe (Shabbos 87a). On the other hand, we find
that the Talmud states that if it was not for the breaking of the Luchos,
Torah would have never been forgotten by the nation of Israel (Eruvin 54a).
How is it that Moshe could been praised for an action that allowed Torah to
be forgotten for eternity?
The forgetting of Torah necessitates Torah study to recapture that which
was lost. A simple reminder if often not enough to relearn that which was
forgotten. Time must be spent and effort expended to retrieve that which
cannot be found. Therefore, the loss of Torah information actually results
in a net gain of Torah study. Although the Luchos were destroyed and Torah
was allowed to be forgotten, G-d thanked Moshe for his action, as now much
more time would be devoted to the retrieval of that which was lost, the
study of Torah thereby increasing in magnitude.
The Greeks attempted to eradicate Torah from the world. They forced many in
the nation of Israel to suspend any involvement in Torah study. The
oppression was severe, and physical and spiritual tolls were exacted.
However, what the Greeks never anticipated was that their wide-scale
suppression of Torah study would actually result in an even greater
devotion of time and energy to Torah study. The darkness of the oppression
led to an even brighter light illuminating the spirit of the nation of
Israel, a light that we recall when we allow the light of the Menorah,
placed prominently in our windows, for all to see, to illuminate our homes.
Chanukah was the last holiday because it sent us a message that we need to
recall during our time of exile. Specifically, Chanukah demonstrated that
spiritual suppression can result in spiritual growth. The loss of Torah
study can most definitely result in wide-spread growth and disseminating of
Torah, on scales never previously imaginable. Generally, the story of
Chanukah demonstrates that the gloom of exile and oppression can and will
eventually result in splendorous bliss. As the Chanukah prayer of Al
HaNissim states, G-d "gave the mighty to the hands of the week, many into
the hands of the few... the wicked into the hands of the righteous." This
happened on Chanukah, and it will happen again, may it be speedily, in our