Kabbalah/Chassidut

CHANUKAH SECRETS

Free translation and adaptation from a discourse of
Rabbi Sholom Dov Baer Schneerson
Chanukah 5678 (1917)

by Rabbi David Rothschild

Preface

A Chassidic discourse is the most developed form of the inner Torah. Every word is sculpted by Divine Inspiration. Delivered to coincide with a weekly Torah reading or Jewish festival, these discourses make a spiritual connection with auspicious times.

Concepts from Kabbala and Zohar are developed to perfection. Their relevance to the Five Books of Moses and Tanach (Old Testament) as well as passages from the Talmud is expounded upon. This reveals their "inner meaning."

These discourses presuppose a familiarity with Torah. Perhaps for these reasons, only a handful has been translated into English and published as books by the Kehot Publication Society.

Over the course of two hundred years, the Lubavitcher Rebbes delivered thousands of discourses. Now for the first time they are being made public on the Internet.

In the texts that follow an attempt was made to abridge and elucidate their content. To provide background information for difficult terms and concepts, additional material from other Chassidic discourses, appears in brackets. The remaining content is a free translation.

 

Part 1 (of 3)

The Mitzvah

The mitzvah of Chanukah lights is to place the menorah in the front doorway facing the outside. The 12th century commentary, Rashi, defines the front door as the door which opens to a courtyard. In those times several homes shared a common courtyard.

Rashi's grandsons, the Tosefos, disagreed. They were of the opinion the menorah must always face a public thoroughfare. When a house is adjacent to a street, the menorah must be placed in the front doorway. If a courtyard separates the house from the street, the menorah must be placed in the doorway of the courtyard which opens to the street.

Sages of the Talmud had previously stated the practice, transmitted through the generations from Second Temple times, of positioning the menorah on the left side of the doorway. In this manner the menorah would be opposite the mezuzah, which is affixed on the right doorpost. The Talmud continues, in the case where a mezuzah is not present, the menorah must be placed on the right side of the entrance. The significance of these details is revealed by Kabbala.


Spiritual Warfare

When the Greeks conquered Israel, they weren't interested in enslaving the Jews. Rather, their intent was to force the abandonment of Torah and mitzvahs. They issued decrees punishable by death.

Jews were compelled to inscribe on the horns of their cattle, "We have no portion in the G-d of Israel." Cattle represent the Left Side. [Ezekiel's vision of a flaming chariot had the face of a steer on the left side.]

[The spiritual apparatus by which G-d's light and life-force enact creation are ten emanations called sefiros. The siferos are aligned in three sets: right, left and center. The Right Side refers to the chain of emanations where Kindness is the primary siferah. The Left Side denotes the set where Severity is the prominent sefirah.]

The difference between the Right and Left Side concerns their dynamic. The Right Side provides life-force by drawing close the recipient. As evil can't countenance
G-d's light, it is unable to receive vitality from the Right Side.

The Left Side grants life-force through the opposite dynamic. It pushes away and constricts light. Through sundry restrictions and repulsion, light is reduced in intensity and substance. From this low level evil can suck vitality.


Holy Embrace

When the Right Side draws an object near, it causes the object to embrace and become one with its source of life. The source reveals itself to the recipient, filling it with even more Goodness and light.

Repulsion functions in the opposite manner. The object is pushed farther and farther away until it enjoys little, if any, of the revealed light.

An important person endears an ordinary fellow by engaging him in extended conversation. He shares facets of his life and discusses ideas. But when he wants to shun someone he speaks in an abrupt manner using the minimum of words.

To sum up, The Right Side - Goodness, bestows vitality in a manner of closeness and revelation. Evil can't face the light. Their life-force can only be provided by the Left Side - Severity, where light is repulsed and concealed.


Devious Calculation

The Greeks oppressed the Jews on a spiritual level. They wanted to "level the playing field" by forcing Jews to receive life-force from the same place they did -- the Left Side. That's why they decreed to inscribe on cattle horns "We have no portion in the G-d of Israel." Cattle represent the Left Side. Horns are devoid of vitality. They are the physical manifestation of spiritual waste matter - the bottommost descent of the Left.

When the Hashmanites rose and defeated the Greeks, they instituted the lighting of the menorah on the left side of door which faces outside. In doing so, the Left Side is rectified. Evil is mitigated and ultimately vanquished.


Mitzvah Candles

King Solomon said in Proverbs, "For a mitzvah is a candle and the Torah is light." A deeper understanding of Chanukah lights can be realized by the purpose of Torah and mitzvahs.

Mitzvahs are performed on physical objects. The physical world contains two categories. The first are neutral objects. The second are forbidden things. Their difference derives from the source of their respective life-forces.

Neutral objects are neither innately good nor evil. Their spiritual source is an intermediate level, which can be transformed into Holiness. When a physical thing is seized and subjected to G-d's will, it is brought closer to G-d. It becomes a vessel for G-d's light. This realizes G-d's innermost desire: that He be manifest in this world.

The higher one ascends the numerous spiritual worlds, greater is the intensity and value of G-d's light. In this physical world, G-d's light is completely concealed.
It is G-d's desire that this lowest of all possible levels should itself become a vessel for His light.

A mitzvah rarifies the physical object; it is elevated to become a vessel for light. Actually, every neutral thing, derived from the world's spiritual intermediate-life-force source, together with now liberated sparks of holiness, ascends to embrace G-d. Then, new additional light is revealed in the world.

That's why Proverbs calls mitzvahs "candles." Just as a candle's wick holds light, so mitzvahs reveal the Infinite Light of G-d.


Mezuzah

Some mitzvahs involve food and clothing. Others relate to the house. The mezuzah elevates the house and its contents to G-d. The word "mezuzah" (îæåæä) can be divided into three parts: me-zu-zah, which are respectively: the letter 'mem', the word for 'these' and the word for 'this'. The souls of Israel are called "these"; "this" (singular) refers to G-d; the letter 'mem' has the numerical value of 40 symbolizing the forty days Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai. The word taken as a whole signifies the bonding of Jews with G-d through the mitzvahs.

The word "mitzvah" itself means to connect. The language of blessings, "which you commanded us" actually means, "which you connected us." The intent of mitzvahs is bonding. Jews are brought close to and connected with G-d. And the entire physical word is elevated and bound with G-d.

King Solomon writes in Song of Songs, "His right arm embraces me." This signifies the Right Side as a connector. That's why the mezuzah is affixed on the right side of the doorway. It brings closer to G-d the house and everything inside.


Torah Light

While mitzvahs raise up the physical world, Torah draws spiritual light downward. By learning Torah, G-d's Absolute Infinite Light is revealed and drawn down into the world.

Before Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai, G-d's Absolute Infinite Light hadn't yet been revealed. Rather, a smaller, Limited Light animated the world. The Absolute Infinite light was reserved inside G-d, to be revealed at a latter time.

There are three lights: the Absolute Infinite Light, a lower Relative Infinite Light, and the slightest Limited Light. Before creation, G-d revealed his Relative Infinite Light. A finite world could not exist within revealed infinity. So G-d withdrew and concealed his Relative Infinite Light. What remained was a Limited Light. That's what created the world.

The Absolute Infinite Light wasn't party to this process. As it is absolutely infinite, it is above concealment. Since it can't be concealed, it wasn't revealed. For how could a finite world exist in revealed absolute infinity? So G-d held it back for Himself.

The source of creation then is really the Relative Infinite Light. It's called relative because ultimately, creation - that is finitude -- got started by its initial revelation. That's because the Limited Light, prior to its own revelation, had been bound up and united in this Relative Infinite Light.

The Relative Infinite Light, being only relatively infinite, could be concealed. G-d's power of contraction and restriction made it vanish. It only disappeared from our perception. Relative to G-d, it is still present in the world. Sometimes it is revealed in miracles.

After the Relative Infinite Light was concealed the Limited Light shinned out of the darkness and created the world. It could do so because there wasn't any revealed infinity around.

The Absolute Infinite Light hadn't been revealed as of yet. G-d then gave Moses the Torah to make possible its revelation. A world created by means of the concealment of the Relative Infinite Light now has drawn into it this highest Absolute Infinite Light.

The innovation of the Giving of the Torah isn't just that a hitherto unrevealable Absolute Infinite Light enters the world. The amazing thing is this "above infinity" should enter physical objects. Through Torah, the physical accepts within itself - that is, it internalizes -- an inner manifestation of this greater than infinite Absolute Infinite Light.


Reach

Being that this light is from the Essence of G-d, it has the ability to descend, purify and rectify unclean and forbidden realms. Mitzvahs, by contrast, elevate only permitted things such as kosher food. And by observing the negative commandments such as the prohibition of eating non-kosher animals, the forbidden is repelled. But the unclean animal doesn't change. It is still there.

The Torah, however, in discussing the laws of non-kosher animals, affects their purification. That's because Torah's light is of the absolute essence of G-d. It can descend to the depths, remain unscathed and affect the desired result.

This power of "Torah light" is akin to the lights of Chanukah. That's why the menorah is placed on the left side of the door: to rectify the Left Side. And in doing so, evil is eradicated.

[on to Part 2]

 


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