Compiled by Dina Fraenkel
In the well-known maamar “Tanu Rabbanan – Ner Chanukah”, the Rebbe RaShaB, Rav Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch teaches: “G-d created [the universe in such a way that] each being has its opposite counterpart.”1 Each one of us was created with a Nefesh HaElokis, a G-dly soul, which possesses potential for G-dly intellect, emotion, thought, speech and action. In addition, we were all created with a Nefesh HaBahamis (animal soul) whose potentials stem from the sitra achra (the “other”, negative side).
Our lives can be simplified as a grand struggle for the G-dly soul to reign over the animal soul. For most of us, this is a lifelong battle. A tzaddik, however, is on a higher level – the level of repose. The tzaddik’s love and joy of G-dliness allows him to overcome his animal soul without difficulty and it becomes nullified on its own.
This concept can be applied to the Chanukah lights. The goal of the Greeks was to make the Jews “forget [G-d’s] Torah and violate the decrees of [His] will.” They wanted the Jews to embrace the wisdom of kelipah (the shell that conceals the G-dly light in something), of the sitra achra. This is why the Greeks defiled the oil in the Beis HaMikdash.
Oil is a common metaphor for wisdom. The Greeks did not destroy all of the oil so there was none available. They defiled it and made it unfit for use in the menorah. The objective was to bring in the wisdom of kelipah to make the holy wisdom of Torah impure.2 The Greeks wanted to divorce the Jewish people from G-d, saying, “Write on the horn of an ox [that you have no share in the G-d of Israel].”3
The Tanya (end of chapter 8) explains that unholy wisdom brings more severe impurity than the impurity brought by frivolous negative experiences. Frivolous experiences impact one’s middos (emotive attributes) which can be corrected by increasing in Torah.4 Negative wisdom, however, brings impurity to one’s intellectual qualities – Chochmah, Binah and Daas (wisdom, understanding and knowledge). These qualities are part of the core essence of the G-dly soul and damaging them with negative wisdom can impart a much deeper impurity on the soul.
Pure Torah wisdom uplifts the soul and refines one’s characteristics, culminating in the ideal characteristic of being bitul (subservient) to Hashem. On the other hand, impure wisdom brings about the opposite – an increase in self-absorption (yeshus), which is contrary to the Torah.
The Greeks, representing the sitra achra, wanted to hold sway over the Jews and destroy the bitul of the Torah’s wisdom and replace it with the self-centered approach of secular philosophy. That is why the Maccabees, after their victory over the Greeks, declared that the Chanukah lights should be lit as a symbol of the “light” of “Torah“.5
Just as the Maccabees were victorious over the impure wisdom of the Greeks, we should all be blessed with great success in elevating our G-dly soul over the animal soul and placing Torah wisdom above all other philosophies. May the Jewish people achieve the success of the Maccabees and the dominion of Torah reign supreme with the immediate Redemption and revelation of Moshiach.