By Rabbi Yehudah Prero
Rav Moshe Isserless, in the Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chayim 670:2) writes:
this holiday (Chanukah) was not established to be a holiday of feasting
there is still, however, a small Mitzvah to increase one's festive meals,
because on these
days, the Altar was dedicated, and we have a custom to sing songs and
praises at these
meals. The Mishna Berura adds to this that the construction of the
Tabernacle, was completed on the 25th day of Kislev (Chanukah), and the
Temple, in the
days of Antiochus, was rededicated at this time as well.
From the above, there are evidently two distinct sets of events being
Chanukah. We say the prayer of Hallel, praises of G-d, and light the
Menorah to recall the
miracle the Chashmonaim experienced with their victory over the Greeks and
lasting eight days instead of one. However, the celebratory nature of the
holiday, with its
requirement to engage in feasting, is because of the dedication of the
Altar. The name of
the holiday reflects this aspect as well. The word Chanukah, simply
"dedication" or "inauguration," alluding to "Chanukas HaMizbayach," the
dedication of the
The Talmud (Sukkah 56b) relates an incident involving the Altar that had
implications. The Talmud states "Our Rabbis taught, It happened that
Miriam the daughter
of Bilgah (who was a Levi, and served in the Temple) apostatized and
married an officer
of the Greek kings. When the Greeks entered the Sanctuary (at the time of
the story of
Chanukah), she stamped with her sandal upon the altar, crying out, Lukos!
long will you consume Israel's money! And yet you do not stand by them in
the time of
oppression!' And when the Sages heard of the incident, they made her ring
and blocked up her alcove (meaning her entire family was no longer
permitted to serve in
the Temple)." . . .According to him who stated that it was Miriam the
daughter of Bilgah
who apostatized, do we penalize even a father on account of his daughter?
Abaye, as the proverb has it, The talk of the child in the marketplace,
is that either of his
father or of his mother."
Miriam was from a distinguished family, a family that had the great
privilege to perform
the service in the Temple in Jerusalem. However, Miriam never gained an
how great an honor it was for her family to serve. She showed the greatest
the Altar, by stomping on it and cursing it. For this action, her entire
family was punished.
Why was the whole family punished? Why could her entire family no longer
holy service in the Temple? Because, Abaye says, the contempt she
displayed toward the
Temple did not just emerge from a vacuum. She learned this disrespect, or
appreciation, for the Temple and the Altar from her parents.
Children formulate opinions and adhere to beliefs based on their
education by no means is just from formal schooling. This education comes
from how the
child sees his or her parents act and interact. When a child sees a parent
value an ideal,
person, or item, this creates an impression on the child. When a child
sees a parent
despise and deride an ideal, person, or item, this creates an impression
as well. These
lessons, the ones acted out before a child's eyes on a daily basis, are
often the ones that
are ingrained in a child's memory for years. These lessons are the ones
that last. The
lesson that sacrifices on the Altar were a waste was the lesson that
Miriam learned from
her parents. Because her family showed disdain toward the Temple, Miriam
attitude with her, and displayed it in a most vivid fashion. Therefore,
family was punished, and could no longer serve in the Temple.
The Tur Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chayim 670) contains the words of the
Bach. The Bach writes that by Chanukah, the decrees and troubles that
befell the nation
of Israel stemmed from the fact that the people became lazy in their
service of G-d.
Therefore, they were punished by having the Greeks issue an edict that
from serving G-d at all. The above incident with Miriam is just one
illustration of the
disrespect some people had for the Temple and the service of G-d conducted
Chanukah is a time when celebrate the fact that we were freed from Greek
and allowed to serve G-d freely. As mentioned above, on Chanukah, we also
the dedication of the Altar. These two aspects of Chanukah are clearly
connected. If it
were not for the fact that the nation of Israel did not show proper
respect to the Altar, the
persecutions and battles that climaxed with the miracles of Chanukah would
occurred. If the nation had not been lax in their service of G-d, and not
Temple with a casual attitude, they would have been allowed to serve G-d
foreign interference. The negative attitude toward G-d was so pervasive
learned this attitude from their parents, and it spread into the younger
Chanukah, we should remember that we need to be strong in our service of G-
need to act with zeal, zest, and fervor so our dedication is evident. Our
from our behavior, and the best lesson we can give them in how to serve G-
d is by
serving G-d properly ourselves.
We sing the song Ma'oz Tzur on Chanukah. The first stanza of this song
sets the theme
for the holiday: O mighty Rock of my salvation, to praise you is a
delight. Restore my
House of Prayer, and there we will bring a thanksgiving offering. When you
prepared the slaughter for the blaspheming foe, then I shall complete,
with a song of
hymn, the dedication of the Altar.
May we all merit to live this song. A happy Chanukah to all!
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Yehudah Prero and Torah.org.
The author has Rabbinic ordination from Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem, NY.