The Beloved Mitzvah by Michael Winner/12/23/2016 I had to take a few mornings off of kollel this past week and will be doing so this coming week as well. Things are going on at work in which I need to learn some new programming skills, and I have no time to do so. I spoke to the head of the kollel about what the learning schedule is going to be like over the next month or so, and it seemed that now, specifically, would be the best time for me to take off the time so I wouldn’t fall behind in my learning. I knew it was something I had to do (and the first time I’ve had to do so ever), but I didn’t like the idea of taking off Chanukah, specifically, from learning Torah. It just didn’t seem . . . right. So, I called my rav to speak to him about it. He said, while it’s true, from a certain perspective, taking off for Chanukah isn’t right, but looking at the big picture, you have to do what you have to do. Our conversation continued like this: Me: “I know, I know . . . I just wanted your signature on this move, so if I get in trouble Above, I can blame it on you.” Him: “Don’t worry, I will personally, pull you out of Purgatory by your payas.” Me: ”Um . . . Rebbe . . . I don’t have payas.” Him: “Then I’ll pull you out by the back of your pants.” Perhaps it would be more comfortable to remain in Purgatory. So, this explains why Frum.org has been revamped. I used it as a testing ground. The email format still needs work, and I’ll get to it eventually. If anybody with HTML/CSS skills wants to volunteer time to put together an email-safe template, I would appreciate it. Okay, on to Torah! As we know, Chanukah celebrates the two miracles that Hashem did for us: He gave us victory over the Greeks and their Jewish supporters, and He made one jug of oil last for eight nights. Rav Shimshon Pincus asks a two-question question. First, the Rambam, on Hilchos Chanukah describes the lighting of the menorah as a mitzvah “chavivah,” beloved. He doesn’t use this language with any other mitzvah, only that of the commemoration of the oil that lasted eight days. Second, while we understand the importance of the miracle of Chanukah, in the grand scheme of things . . . what was so special about it? Really! During Pesach, we had tons of miracles, from the plagues to the splitting of the sea. During Shavuos, when we received the Torah, there were plenty of miracles as well. During the entire time the Beis HaMikdash was standing, there were miracles witnessed every day by Jew and non-Jew alike. In fact, one of those miracles was the fact that one of the candles of the Menorah did not extinguish for hundreds of years! Now, comes in Chanukah with its military victory and super-strong oil, and now it’s suddenly “chavivah”! Rav Pincus explains that all the other miracles, from Pesach to Shavuos to the Beis HaMikdash all came from Hashem to show His power in this world. He brought these miracles on His own accord. While Pesach, Shavuos, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, etc. are all days of holiness, that holiness was implanted in those days by Hashem Himself. Chanukah, on the other hand is different. Chanukah took place during a very dark time in Jewish history. Not only was Eretz Yisroel under Greek control and influence, the assimilation rate of the Jewish people was high, if not in intermarriage, certainly in thought and practice. Yet, the Maccabees strengthened themselves and took a stand against Greek and Jew alike. They were in the minority, politically, militarily, and religiously. They were the evil “Ultra-Orthodox” of their times, worse in fact, since they didn’t hesitate to kill Jews who were supporting the Greeks. They did this not for nationalistic reasons, nor for their liberty. They did it to maintain the Torah and for Hashem’s honor. At this time, Hashem saw what this small band of Jews was willing to sacrifice and do, and “felt” the love that they were showing for Him. And for THAT reason, for the self-sacrifice that they were willing to make, Hashem performed these miracles. Not to show His power, but rather to reciprocate His love for the Jewish people. THAT is why this specific mitzvah is so beloved in Hashem’s eyes. And this is a VERY important lesson to learn. Whenever we show self-sacrifice, and I don’t mean giving up our lives . . . it could be anything . . . Hashem finds that love to be extremely important. When we have an opportunity to move away from Hashem and we say, “Yes, I really want to do this . . . really, REALLY,” and it’s hard not to give in, and we strengthen ourselves, THAT is truly beloved to Hashem. Have a great Shabbos and a wonderful Chanukah! Michael Winner p.s. Most likely, I will not be able to send a dvar Torah next week.