"One and Seven"

  • Rav Shlomo Levy

The Chasidic work Siftei Chen writes (introduction 8,1):

 

"In Igra de-Kalla it is written, in the name of the disciples of the Ba'al Shem Tov, that all the labor of the Mishkan corresponds to the labor of Creation, which came about through ten utterances. And the labor of the Menora corresponds to the first utterance, the Sefira of 'Keter'

It is for this reason that the miracle of Chanuka could not be committed to writing, as our Sages taught, because the miracle concerned the Menora, and the Menora corresponds to the first utterance – "In the beginning" – which has no actual words that can be written… This is why Moshe had difficulty in grasping the labor of the Menora."

 

Kabbalistic teachings describe God's manifestation in the world as "emanating" by way of the ten Sefirot. The miracle of Chanuka, which concerned the Menora, cannot be set down because it belongs to the Sefira of "Keter" – the highest and most esoteric Sefira, of which we can have no perception or understanding.

 

But what is the great wonder of Chanuka that is so far beyond our grasp?

 

The answer seems to lie in the miracle of the cruse of oil. This small container, which held enough oil to light the Menora for just one day, managed to last for an additional seven days. That small vessel is the kernel of supernal, elevated sanctity which can never be affected by the forces of impurity, and which is sufficient to illuminate the entire world for seven days.

 

The number seven always symbolizes the natural world, which was created in seven days. The number eight symbolizes that which is beyond nature. The container of oil is that eighth point – the point that is beyond nature, and which illuminates our physical, material world.

 

As part of the order of his service on Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol is required to sprinkle blood upon the Kodesh Kodashim – at the top of the curtain and at the foot of it – "once above and seven times below." This sprinkling once again symbolizes the same model: there is one point above, possessing the power to illuminate the seven points that are below – i.e., the entire world of our reality.

 

This is the great wonder of Chanuka. To all appearances, the world around us is material and physical. Can a pure, sanctified power descend into such a lowly, vulgar world? On Chanuka we understand that this is indeed possible, and it is unquestionably a wondrous miracle.

 

Chanuka is the festival that symbolizes the Hidden Light. According to some opinions among Chazal, man was created on the 1st of Tishrei, such that the day when the world was created – "And God said, Let there be light" – was the 25th of Elul. The "conception" of the world, then, is nine months prior to this date – on the 25th of Kislev. The first day of Chanuka is the day that symbolizes the Light which is concealed in the innermost depths, and which is destined to become manifest only nine months later.

 

Perhaps this relates to the debate between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel (Shabbat 21b) concerning the proper order of the lighting: should we start with eight lights, and light one less each day of Chanuka such that on the last night we light only one, or should we light one single flame on the first night and add one more each night? According to Beit Shammai, the festival begins with the lighting of eight flames, and gradually the "shells" and "barriers" are removed, such that by the end of the festival we are left with one single flame – the light of supernal holiness. Beit Hillel take the opposite approach: the festival begins with the point of supernal holiness, and then this point is expanded and enlarged each night. This expresses the wonder of Chanuka – the supernal, Divine light is capable of giving over its illumination throughout the following seven days, the seven days of action and labor which build up the material world.