|Third Temple Torah, True Teachings|
From the Book of Bereishis (Genesis)
Greetings from the holy city of Jerusalem!
This week's portion of Miketz falls out during the festival of Chanukah. The Talmud (Shabbat 22a) teaches that the Chanukah menorah should ideally be lit on the left side of the doorway to one's home, resulting in the home's entrance being surrounded by objects of mitzvah: the menorah on the left side, and the mezuzah on the right. The midrash adds further that a person wearing a tallis is in the center. What message is this imagery alluding to? What lesson are our Sages trying to convey?
The Talmud (Shabbat 21b) teaches that the mitzvah of kindling Chanukah lights can be performed on three different levels: "mitzvah," "mehadrin," and "mehadrin min ha-mehadrin." Hillel and Shammai disagree regarding the fulfillment of this last, most ideal level. Hillel claims that we should kindle one light on the first night of Chanukah and add one new light on each successive night, resulting in eight lights by the end of the festival. His opinion is based on the principle that kedusha (holiness) is only increased, never decreased. Shammai's opinion is exactly the opposite. He claims that we should begin Chanukah by kindling eight lights, and then subtract them one by one as the festival progresses. Shammai compares Chanukah to Sukkot, when the number of cows brought as offerings to the Temple decreased over the course of the holiday.
Shammai's connection between Chanukah and Sukkot will help us to understand the symbolism in the Talmud and midrash of the menorah on the left, the mezuzah on the right, and the person wearing a tallis in the middle. According to the Sfat Emet, this world is composed of three dimensions to sanctify and elevate: the dimension of PLACE, the dimension of TIME, and the dimension of SELF. All three of these elements are mentioned in the Talmud and the midrash, hinting that Chanukah affords us with the opportunity to sanctify all three dimensions at once. The mezuzah is affixed on the doorpost of a house, representing the sanctification of PLACE. The menorah, which is used to count the days as Chanukah progresses, represents the sanctification of TIME. The person who wears tzitzit on his body, on his way into or out of the house, represents the sanctification of SELF. (See the Sukkot e-mail for a further elaboration of the idea of the three mystical dimensions). Based on Shammai's approach, Chanukah can be understood as a culmination of Sukkot, since Sukkot also symbolizes the unity of the three dimensions. The sukkah represents the dimension of Place; the seven-day duration of the holiday represents the dimension of Time; and the four species symbolize different parts of the human body, corresponding to the dimension of Self. These three dimensions are expressed on Sukkot, and they culminate on Chanukah, when the spiritual potential for unity is once again brought into physical reality.
May we all learn to carry the message of Sukkot into our daily lives and to see it manifest in Chanukah. May we succeed in elevating all three dimensions -- our homes, ourselves, and every moment of our lives -- and may that sanctity and unity create a strong, radiant light to shine through all generations.
Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Sameach -