Hiddur Mitzvah Part 2

Taste of Talmud, Halacha and Chanukah

When the Chashmonaim returned to the Bais Hamikdash they only found one small flask of oil that had not been defiled by the Greeks.  According to the account of Rav Achai Gaon, this flask had the seal of the Kohen Gadol on it and did not contain enough oil to light the Menorah for even one day.  Rabbi Yitzchak Mirsky asks, what was this oil originally set aside for that it should have such a small amount of pure oil with the seal of the Kohen Gadol on it?  If it was set aside for lighting it should have had at least the amount necessary for one day and it should have been sealed by the oil makers, not the Kohen Gadol?    Rabbi Mirsky answers these questions with a beautiful insight which will provide us with some understanding as to why our sages recommended that we perform the Mitzvah of Lighting the Menorah in such a beautiful manner.   There was another Mitzvah other than the Menorah that required the use of oil in the Bais Hamikdash.  Most of the flour offerings in the Bais Hamikdash required oil.  However, this oil did not have to be pure olive oil as was needed for the Menorah.  The Kohen Gadol himself brought a special flour offering every day.  This offering was made with a tenth of an eifa (1 liter) of flour and required a small amount of oil.  This oil as well was not required to be pure olive oil.  However, Matisyahu the Kohen Gadol had decided to beautify this special Mitzvah of his and he personally made sure to see to it that only pure olive oil would be used for his flour offering.  He even went so far as to prepare small flasks of oil with just the right amount of oil needed for his daily flour offering.  It was one of these flasks of oil that the Chashmonaim found. They were now able to perform the Mitzvah of lighting the Menorah in its ideal way.   Now they were faced with an additional dilemma.  Should they make thinner wicks which draw less oil in order to make the oil last longer?  Or perhaps they should use impure oil and light the Menorah in its defiled state because that was what was available?  Or should they light the Menorah in purity with the regular wicks and allow it to burn as long as it could?  Over the past year of their revolt they had done some soul searching.  They realized that prior to the point in time in which G-d had allowed the decrees of Antiochus to take away the privilege of temple service from them, there had been a serious weakening in the enthusiasm and fastidiousness in the peoples’ service of G-d.  It was this awareness that inspired The Chashmonaim to lead the spiritual and physical battle cry of Mi LaHashem Eilai.  Whoever is ready to devote themselves to serving Hashem, wholeheartedly, should follow me!  In this spirit of reawakening renewal and revival to serve Hashem with hearts full of love and joy it was clear what they needed to do.  They needed to light the Menorah with the most beautiful oil and wicks possible for as long as possible.  They needed to inaugurate the Bais Hamikdash with Hiddur Mitzvah.  When Hashem saw that the Chashmonaim had done all that was in their ability to show their love of Him, He in turn showed His great love for the Jewish nation by allowing the small amount of pure oil to burn in the large wicks, most beautifully, for eight days.  So it was the Hiddur Mitzvah of the Kohen Gadol and the Hiddur Mitzvah of the Chashmonaim that made it possible for us to experience G-d’s love.  The Bach (OC: 570) writes that it is for this reason that the holiday is celebrated with great and fervent songs of love to G-d.  It is the Holiday in which we need to express our love for G-d wholeheartedly.  It is very clear, therefore, that when it comes to the lighting of the Menorah, no one will be trying to look for cheap and lackadaisical ways of performing the Mitzvah.  It is specifically at this time that our sages recommend looking for ways in which to beautify the Mitzvah of Menorah.    May we too merit to experience G-d’s loving miracles in our day.  May the merit of performing the Mitzvah of Menorah and all Mitzvos with Hiddur bring about Miracles, Blessings, and Salvation for all of us.

This week’s issue is dedicated L’ Iluy Nishmas:

Liba Raizel Bas Menachem Mendel Halevi, OBM

Have A Great Shabbos!!

About tasteofyeshiva

RABBI YAIR FRIEDMAN teaches at The Torah School of Greater Washington, and Yeshiva L' Baalei Batim. He is the owner and director of Camp Gevaldig LLC.
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