Friday, December 9, 2011

Chanukah: The Illuminated Mind

The following is based on the Sfas Emes the Shmuzen of R' Yaakov Meir Shechter Shlit'a. Feel free to print this out and read it over Shabbos Kodesh - just please not during Tefilos!

The Neis, the miracle of Chanukah was historically the final event to be turned into an established Chag. The burning of the Menorah for eight days served as the last open miracle before the beginning of the exile that we still experience today.

All of the Sfarim HaKedoshim explain that the significance of this is that the light of Chanukah is the Chizuk, the source of strength that we need to carry on through the Galus and make our way to the Geulah. God sends us into the Galus with Chaunkah to protect us. The inner energies of Chanukah will provide us with what we need to make our way out and rebuild the Beis HaMikdash. Chanukah is our lifeline.

We want to tap into this, we want to access the history-shifting force of Chanukah, and we want to rebuild the Temple with it. Be we are yet to understand the dynamic of this connection. What about Chanukah will bring us back to the Beis HaMikdash?

So we need to identify two things: First, what is the Temple? We must seek to clarify the contours of its nature. What did it stand for and what spiritual vacuum is left in its destruction? Second, what is Chanukah? What is the inner meaning of the Mitzvah of the holiday? With the answers to two questions then our question will answer itself.

The root of the Beis HaMikdash is found the Torah HaKedoshah’s prototype for what a sanctuary is all about. The Mishkan that was built in the desert served as the archetype for a House for Hashem’s imminence amongst the people.

So how did we get the Mishkan?

Rebbe Nachman MiBreslev explains that when one does an Aveirah he brings within himself a Ruach, a spirit, a presence of Kfirah, of heresy. Similarly, the Kutzker Rebbe used to say that any Aveirah that a person does is really two Aveiros, for in the moment of the sin the person ‘conveniently forgot’ about the existence of God as to justifify the sin and therefore such an outlook is the beginning of Avodah Zara – idol worship.

At Har Sinai, when the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf they brought within their midst a spirit of Kfirah and Hester that was never previously experienced. It was the deepest fall in their young history.

Moshe Rabbeinu pleads for their forgiveness. He is not only asking Hashem to spare their lives – he is asking for much more. He is asking to spare their souls. He is beseeching Hashem to remove the heresy that injected itself into the veins of the people. He is asking God to cleanse the people of their spiritual corruption and touch their minds with Godliness once more.

So what is God’s response? How does Hashem show that He has forgiven and is ready to restore His presence amongst the people? He says, Let’s build the Mishkan. That is the sign of the forgiveness.

Why is this the indication of God’s return to the people’s awareness? The dynamic is as such: The Passuk says – V’Asu Li Mikdash V’Shanchanti B’Socham – And they will make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell amongst them. Note that the verse does not say that Hashem will dwell in the sanctuary itself; that’s not the point of the Mishkan. The physical building in which there is a concentration of God’s presence is merely an external manifestation of the fact that God’s presence is resting in the hearts of the people. They are living with an awareness of the Creator. Their decision making processes are totally shifted and altered by a wave of holiness. Because God dwells in them, there is a physical manifestation that takes the form of a building.

It thus emerges that the destruction of the temple serves as an equally external manifestation of the reverse. Once Hashem’s presence no longer touches the hearts and minds of Am Yisrael then the structure that is designed to house His aura is automatically rendered useless. The building can stand but it will be an empty shell. When we gaze at Har HaBayis and see Churban, it is a reflection of a Churban in the inner framework of the people.

Geulah means returning to the state of mind where I sense Godliness inside of myself. When the people will attain V’Shachanti B’Socham then V’Asu Li Mikdash will happen by itself.

But we began with the assumption that the historical placement of Chanukah as the final holiday comes to show us that it will pull us through the exile and into the redemption. The question now becomes: How?

Well, we need to hone in. For it is obvious that Chanukah revolves around the Menorah. The Mitzvah of the holiday is the lighting of the Menorah. So really it emerges that candle lighting is the vehicle of redemption. The light of the Menorah is the one aspect of the Beis HaMikdash that wasn’t destroyed. The Avodah of Hadlakas Neiros Chanukah was handpicked by Hashem to be the central driving force of salvation.

Why the Menorah of all of the many vessels of the Beis HaMikdash? Why specifically the lamp? What’s so special about candles? Why is the Menorah divinely ordained to be the tool that will bring us back to V’Shachanti B’Socham?

So we need to ask: What’s a candle? We have a Pasuk in Mishlei that on the surface seems incomprehensible but when clarified will hopefully shift our perspectives towards a deeper understanding of the Menorah, our Neshamos, and how to achieve Geulah.

Ner Hashem Nishmas Adam Chofesh Kol Chadrei Vaten – The Candle of God is man’s soul, God searches out man’s inner-chambers.’ What in the world is going on here? God has a candle? What, He’s in the dark? He’s looking inside of men? What’s he looking for?!

Let’s say I’m in a dark room. It’s so void of light that I’m blocked off from having any basic level of perception of items that are in my immediate surroundings. I have no way of identifying, associating with, mentally extending myself into anything near me. I’m frozen where I am without any means of intellectually moving forward. So I light up a candle. The flame empowers me to begin to perceive things that were previously unattainable. My mind can now move outward and interact with the once locked-off world.

Hashem is in the same situation. He wants V’Shachanti B’Socham. He wants to extend Elokus into us. He deeply seeks to send forth His holiness into our lives. But there is a problem. We are dense and coarse. We are made of physical bodies that have a natural tendency to reject the unfamiliar realm of spirituality. So in such a situation He has no way of reaching into us. What will make such a thing a possibility?

The soul. The Chelek Eloka MiMa’al. An expression of celestial holiness that has been engrained into the human experience. Ah, now there is a way. Now, through the Neshamah, HaKadosh Baruch Hu has a way of extending His Presence to my inner-chambers, every limb, every last fiber of my being. My mind can become infused with Godliness because in the same way that I extend myself in the dark room with a candle, God extends Himself through my Neshamah. Ner Hashem Nishmas Adam.

This is the role of the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash. Normal windows let light in. But Chazal explain that the design of the windows of the Beis HaMikdash was to let light out – proving an entirely different purpose. The Beis HaMikdash needs no exterior source of illumination. To the contrary – it lights up the rest of the world.

What is the light of the Beis HaMikdash? We explained that the Beis HaMikdash stood for something. Its presence was a message. The Beis HaMikdash declared, “Hashem is real. He’s inside of you. Live accordingly.” The Menorah is literally the source of that light. The purpose of the Menorah was to take the message of the Beis HaMikdash and deliver it to the people – to deliver it to the world.

Now everything comes together. The Menorah serves as the vessel that delivers to the world the message upon which a House of God stands. Thus if we need to attain that consciousness of V’Shachanti B’Socham in order to achieve the Geulah then there is no better vessel for the job than the Menorah. It is specifically the Menorah that equips us with the state-of mind needed to rebuild the Beis HaMikdash. The light of the Menorah envelops us in the vibrations of redemptive energy. With the proper focus it helps me reestablish and rediscover my relationship with my soul. And it is the communal attainment of that relationship that will build the Beis HaMikdash.

In my soul is the potential to attain and relate to Godliness in the confines of my personal life. The Menorah serves as the tool to help me access that consciousness. When I light my Menorah I am transported into the inner world of the Beis HaMikdash and the elevated state of existence that comes with it. This will bring the Geulah.

We should be Zocheh,

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