The Jewish Year
Everything You Wanted to Know about the Month of Kislev
י״ז במרחשון ה׳תש״פ (15 בNovember 2019)
Kislev is the Babylonian name of the 9th month counting from the first month Nissan. It is 3 months after Rosh Hashana which is the beginning of Tishrei. Its Zodiac sign is Sagittarius (Keshet- bow, rainbow), as it's well known that the rains of Kislev cause rainbows when the sun comes out. Secondly, the first time a rainbow was ever seen in world history was on the 28th of Kislev when Noach exited the ark.
Many historical events happened during the month of Kislev, Chanuka being the most outstanding one. Here are some others:
⦁ The birth of Reuven the son of our patriarch Yaakov on the14th of Kislev 2197.
⦁ Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi the compiler of the Mishna passed away on the 15th of Kislev.
⦁ The Baal HaTanya, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman of Liadi was freed from prison on the 19th of Kislev 5559 (1798). Chabad Chassidim celebrate this day with gatherings to praise Hashem for this great miracle.
⦁ Jews were forced to confess to libelous accusations that they poisoned wells. This caused the Chmielnicki Pogroms across Europe when thousands of Jews were killed. This was on the 5th of Kislev 5409 (1648).
⦁ On the 25th of Kislev we celebrate Chanuka.
⦁ On the 25th of Kislev the Tabernacle (Mishkan) was completed but it wasn't erected until the 1st of Nissan, 2449.
⦁ On the 28th of Kislev Noach and all of the inhabitants of the ark left the ark/ Noach built an altar and offered animal offerings to Hashem.
On the 25th of Kislev we begin Chanuka and we associate the light of the Chanukia with the victory of the Hasmoneans, the family of priests (Cohanim) that overcame the Greeks.
The Grecian kings during the time of the second temple decreed laws against the practice of Judaism and prevented the Jews from learning Torah or keeping mitzvot. They took their money and also went into the temple and desecrated it making many vessels and the oil impure. With G-d's help, the Hasmoneans brought salvation to our people against all odds, for they were few against many. When the priests entered the temple they looked through the utter destruction seeking pure and holy oil with which to light the menorah. They found only one flask of pure untouched oil, sufficient for only one night. Miraculously, this oil burned for 8 days and the sages of that generation (which preceded the era of the Talmud) established the 8 days of Chanuka as days of praise and happiness,each evening lighting candles by the entrances of their homes to publicize this great miracle.
The Chanuka candles have been dear to us ever since then. A person should be diligent in this mitzva to proclaim the miracle and to increase the praise of Hashem and gratitude to Him for the miracles he has done and continues to do for us. Even if one lacks funds for food and can only eat by receiving chairty he should still borrow or even sell his garment to buy oil to light. The Rambam (Maimonedes) says;” Even if he has but one coin and his choice is either to purchase wine for kiddush or oil for Chanuka he should purchase the oil for Chanuka for it commemorates the miracle (of Chanuka).
The Baal HaTanya explains that Chanuka is celebrated with lighting candles as opposed to the commandments of the other holidays like eating Matzot on Passover to commemorate leaving Egypt or making a party on Purim to commemorate being saved from our physical destruction Haman wanted to carry out. This is beacuse the people of Israel were living in Israel at the time and their exile was not physical rather it was spiritual, being exiled from the Torah the Greeks tried to make us forget. That's why the sages chose candles as the verse says “A Mitzva is a candle and Torah is light.”
A sage named Rabbi Zvi Elimelech of Dinov was a holy person who authored many books. His best known book called is Bnei Yissachar commentary on the holidays. The name Bnei Yissachar became Rabbi Zvi Elimelech's title. How did he get that title? The sage began looking into his genealogy and exclaimed, I'm not a priest and don't come from the Hashmoneans. Why then do I always feel wonderful and elevated on Chanuka? He he wanted to ask a great sage called the (Chozeh) Seer of Lublin this question and before he could even ask, the Chozeh told him; 'It is true you are not a priest. However you should know you come from the tribe of Yissachar (which had many judges). The reason why you feel additional holiness on Chanuka is because you (your soul) presided in the court of the Hasmoneans (when the holiday of Chanuka was announced).” That is now why he is called the “Bnei Yissachar”.
Righteous Jews, Hasidic leaders and Rabbis were careful to light Chanuka candles with great devotion,exaltedness, praise and gratitude. The Admor of Bluzhov wanted to light the Chanuka candles when he was imprisoned in a concentration camp. Chanuka arrived and many people came to witness this unique Chanuka candle lighting. The Admor made all the appropriate belssings including the blessing of “Shehechiyanu”- That You let us live to see this day. Somone present asked, ”Rabbi how can you say “Shehechiyanu”? How can you thank Hashem for living to this day when we are surrounded by thousands of Jews suffering and getting murdered daily?” The Rabbi answered, ”I also thought about that! But when I saw this huge devoted group gathered here to witness the lighting of Chanuka candles in these trying conditions, I found that this alone is sufficient cause to say “Shehechiyanu”!”
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev would say, “We pray on Chanuka and thank Hashem for the miracles and wonders that happened then and and happen now.This means that just as miracles happened then, they continue to happen now. However in order to feel a miracle which is above the natural we must strive to elevate ourselves above nature. This happens when we light our Chanuka candles.”
The Sfat Emet (Hassidic leader of Gur, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter 15 April 1847 – 11 January 1905) of blessed memory defined the miracle of Chanuka as an eternal miracle. He would say; ”The miracle of Chanuka is in all generations. Just as in the time of the Hasmoneans they were able to light candles without oil, so too in our generation even without the temple and the golden menorah, the light of Chanuka still illuminates our lives until today!”
Our sages have taught that our blessing prior to lighting Chanuka candles is not “to light candles on Chanuka” but rather “to light the candles of Chanuka”. This means the light is already there, all we need to do is kindle it – then it will grow into a great luminous flame! The Sfat Emet adds, “That is why the miracle of Chanuka was the last national miracle we experienced before going into exile from the holy land. So that it can cast sparks of fire that will shine and light up even the terrible darkness of our exile!
May we merit the final redemption and have the light of the menorah in the Holy temple light up our lives! Happy Chanuka!
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