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Thought for the Day: Pshat in Chanuka

When I was in college in California, they made all freshman take a sex education class.  I have no idea what they thought they were going to accomplish, but it actually wasn't a terrible class.  The instructor was quite a character and kept things from deteriorating to the kind of conversations that you might expect in a locker room.  One thing he said has really stuck with me: When a child/toddler asks about weather, you don't launch into a lecture on advanced meteorology.  Instead, you take him/her to the window and say, "Look at the rain."

Chanuka is an amazing holiday.  The gemara introduces the disussion (Shabbos 21a) with מאי חנוכה/what's Chanuka?  Rashi explains that gemara is seeking the precise miraculous event that serves as the source for the holiday, but the gemara could have said that straight out.  I think Chazal also wanted to impart a bit of wonder into the discussion.  מאי חנוכה?

There are lots of expositions on the significance of the number eight (beyond nature), why the Greeks wanted to befoul the oil instead of just dumping it out, why the Greeks were the enemy in this event, etc.  Go see the Maharal's נר מצווה for the amazing depth of those topics and more.  None of which is anything I can discuss with my grandchildren, many of which I don't understand myself.  (That sentence is intentionally vague.  You can read it that I don't understand all the deep expositions on Chanuka; which is a true statement.  You can also read it that I don't understand all my grandchildren; which is also true.)

I was at a Sheva Brachos s'uda for a close friend a few days ago.  One of the speakers had a very short and to the point speech.  I don't remember how he tied it to the chosson and kallah because his main point really caught my attention.  Why is Chanuka eight days long and always includes both Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh?  Because the Greeks attacked our religious practice by forbidding bris mila (which is on the eighth day), Shabbos, and Rosh Chodesh.  Therefore the celebration of Chanuka was designed to include a celebration of each; eight, Shabbos, and Rosh Chodesh.

Now that's something I can tell my grandchildren.  That's taking them to the window and showing them the rain and snow and sunshine.  It's something we can share.  It's something I should keep at the front of my mind while all those beautiful and deep expositions are churning in the back.  It's the beauty and depth of simplicity at it's most sublime.


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