Question: Why did the Sages not write a Megillah to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah, as was the case with the miracle of Purim?
Answer: A possible answer to your question is that the books of Tanach (Hebrew Bible) were written by prophets, all of whom were able to write with “Ruach HaKodesh” (Lit: “Holy Spirit,” that is, a certain level of prophecy). According to the Talmud, the ability to receive prophecy ended around the time of the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash (Temple in Jerusalem). By the time the miracle of Chanukah occurred (2nd Century BCE), there were no more prophets left, and thus no one around who had the ability to write a book worthy of canonization in the Hebrew Bible.
Question: When did the celebration of Chanukkah begin? Is it in the Torah? If so, what portion of the Torah is the story located?
Answer: The celebration of Chanukah occurred too late chronologically to be included in the canon of the Bible. Therefore, the story of Chanukah cannot be found in any portion of the Torah or in any Book of the Bible as a whole.
The actual miracle of the jar of oil which lasted 8 days occurred in the year 165 B.C.E when the Hasmoneans were able to reclaim the Temple from the Seleucids (Greeks). The celebration of Chanukah began in the next year (164 B.C.E) when the Rabbis proclaimed a Holiday to commemorate the obvious divine intervention.
Interestingly, the actual battle between the Hasmoneans and the Seleucids continued for another 25 years until the year 140 B.C.E when the Hasmoneans declared victory and installed themselves as rulers of Israel.
While there is certainly no direct mention of the Chanukah Holiday in the Torah, Nachmanides notes that it is alluded to at the beginning of the Torah Portion of B’ha’lotcha which is found in the Book of Numbers. G-d commands Aaron the High Priest to light the Menorah of the Temple each and every day and that Aaron and his the descendants, the Priests are put in charge of the Menorah. Nachmanides notes that the fact that the Menorah was put in the charge of the Priests hints to the Chanukah story as the Hasmoneans, the heroes of the Chanukah story and the miracle of the Menorah, were all descendants of Aaron.
Rabbi Yoel Spotts
Is Hanukkah considered a significant and important Jewish holiday or is it recently commercialized to compete with Christmas?
Your question highlights a very important point. To be short, Hannukah is an extremely important Jewish holiday. The messages inherent in the holiday are as important, if not more important, 2200 years ago during the time of the Maccabees, as they are today. The holiday celebrates the uniqueness and significance of the Jewish experience and the wisdom of the Torah (Bible) as the word of God as opposed to all other wisdoms.
How sadly ironic, and unfortunate really, that Hannukah is perceived as a poor man’s Christmas. Feeling that we need to keep up Christmas, we Jews have sought to define Hannukah in terms of Christmas. “One day of presents, we have eight days of presents. Lights? We have lights also.” While there is nothing wrong with giving presents, presents are not an inherent feature of Hannukah. And while we certainly light candles, the significance of the Hannukah lights is lost contrasting them to Christmas lawn displays.
So, Hannukah has become commercialized, but if we can reclaim the true message and significance of Hannukah, it becomes a hugely important holiday. The miracle of the oil points to God’s love and devotion for us; for even in the darkness of night and exile, He provides light for us which can endure and sustain us for as long as necessary. The victory over the Greeks was not merely a military victory, but a triumph of the unique and special nature of Judaism over the “melting pot” Judaism preached by Hellenism; the validation of the singular nature of the Torah as a way of life and not merely a subject studied in school. Therefore, our quest to synthesize Hannukah and Christmas is not only misguided, but undermines the very meaning of Hannukah. I hope this answers your question; if you have any further questions, please feel free to respond.
Rabbi Yoel Spotts
Question: What is the difference between a Menorah and a Chanukiyah ?
Answer: Chanukiyah is a new term that is only about 40 years old. It was coined to distinguish between the nine-branched candelabra that is used on Chanukah and the seven branched one that was used in the Temple and was called a Menorah. In most of the literature the word “Menorah” is used for both candelabras.
All the Best,
Rabbi Azriel Schreiber
Question: What do the candles of chanukah stand for? Whats do the colors stand for and how many colors are there?
Answer: Thank you for your question. The candles of Chanukah represent the building of one’s spirituality over time. If you are familiar with the story of Chanukah you know that after the Greeks destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem the Jews found a flask of oil that miraculously lasted for 8 days instead of its intended 1 day. We light a candle each night adding up to 8 at the end of the holiday to remind us of the miracle, but also, on a much deeper level, to remind us of our spiritual potential that should be growing coninuously throught our lives. As Chanukah ends on the 8th night we are sad to see it go, but are happy that we see our potential in front of us in the form of the chanukah lights.
There is nothing that I am aware of about colors of lights. Traditionally, we use oil for lighting the menorah, and some use candles, but the color of the candle is irrelevant to the holiday. Using oil, which is colorless, is the best because it reminds us of the miracle.
Rabbi Gershon Litt
Question: What are the five levels of the soul?
Answer: Nefesh is the lowest level, call it the animal level, the level which animates and gives function to the body.
Neshama is the third level, call it the human level. (I’ll get to level number 2 in a minute). Neshama is what allows one to distinguish between good and evil.
The nefesh could be argued not to be a soul at all. It is the most ethereal of all physicality, like a wisp of air disappearing into a small breeze. All animals and all humans have a nefesh, each programmed with the bodily stimuli G-d wanted for the particular individual or species. Only humans have a neshama. If you want to see the difference, watch the animals. Anything both animals and humans do is of the nefesh, for example, eating an
apple. Anything only a human does, is of the neshama. For example, saying a prayer of thanksgiving before and after eating that apple.
The nefesh and neshama are easiest to understand. Between them is Ruach, which one might call an emotion generator.
Chaya is the next emanation and Yechida is the highest level. Understanding these are beyond our grasp but relate to our closest attachments to G-d.
Regards, Eliahu Levenson
Question: Dragons are mythological symbols in many cultures. Are there biblical or other references to dragons in Judaism? If so, what do they symbolize in Judaism? Are they seen as positive or negative or both?
Answer: The dragon is a mythical creature typically depicted as a large and powerful serpent or other reptile with magical or spiritual qualities. Mythological creatures possessing some or most of the characteristics typically associated with dragons are common throughout the world’s cultures. There is no mention of dragons in any Bible, Talmudical or otherwise Jewish literature source.
Question: What makes music enjoyable?
Answer: Music is the language of the soul. Therefore, when we listen to music, we hear it at a very deep level. This means that music is a very powerful soul-tool, for good or for ill, and one should choose one’s music judiciously.Music was used by the prophets before and during the 1st Temple period to put themselves into the state of joy required for prophecy.When the Temple was standing, music was an important part of the experience. There was a Levitical choir who sang and played various instruments (such as harps, flutes, trumpets, and others that we are not sure how to identify). Imagine visiting the Temple: You have just been to the mikvah (everyone is required) and are barefoot, every breath greets an incredible incense, the priests are immaculate in their clothing and synchronized ritual, and the air is filled with heavenly music….
Thanks for asking,
Question: I have been told that you may not compliment a person if you do not mean it——so how do you go about when a friend wears something and in my opinion I think it looks bad and she asks how do I look? What should I say?
Answer: Thank you for asking this important question. I think that the best way to answer this question is to first establish what speech is.
In Judaism, we consider speech to be equivalent to the divine power of creation. Therefore when speaking to a person we must understand that a person was created in the image of god. With that in mind you are correct in saying that one should always try their best to speak the truth.
However, sometimes the truth can be more harmful if stated the wrong way. If a person is wearing something that they enjoy wearing but someone else believes that it looks bad telling them will only hurt them. There is no constructive purpose and telling someone that what they’re wearing looks bad. Therefore, because we as Jews value speech and we do not believe in the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” we therefore are obligated to be mindful of a person’s feelings at all times. Bones do heal, but words stay in a person’s mind forever.
Instead of commenting on your friends clothing ask her if she would like to go shopping and suggest things that you believe would look good on her. This way, you are not hurting her feelings but you are helping her to see the truth about the way she looks in a helpful way.