20 Dec 14
North West London's Weekly Torah Sheet
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A Light For GenerationsOver the last number of years I have led trips to areas in Europe where
Yiddishkeit once flourished. In 2010 as I prepared for our trip to Italy, I realized that our day in Rome would be the most poignant and dramatic of our journey. Rome is unique. Most cities wish to present an image of being contemporary and modern. Not so Rome. As one walks through the historic parts of the city, it becomes obvious that Romes pride is with ancient temples, arenas, arches, and buildings which are mostly dilapidated and crumbling.
The structure I felt would be the perfect culmination of our trip was the imposing 51-foot-high Arch of Titus. Built in the year 81 (by Tituss brother) to commemorate Tituss conquest of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Beis HaMikdash, the arch remains almost intact. It is the oldest surviving example of a Roman arch.
High on its inner wall is a sculpted depiction of broken and defeated Jews being led from Jerusalem, carrying a Menorah from the Beis HaMikdash. It is depressing to look at, for it depicts one of the saddest moments in Jewish history, the exile of thousands of captive Jews from Jerusalem to Rome.
Throughout my preparation, I wondered why Hashem allowed this monument of disgrace to Jews to exist for all these years. So much of ancient Rome is in ruins why did this arch not crumble as well? Could there be a message here?
Indeed as we gathered alongside the Arch on the last day of the trip I told the following story that I heard from my dear friend Rav Menachem Gross, a former Rosh Mesivta in the Novominsker Yeshivah in Brooklyn. About 30 years ago, an American journalist was asked to write a report on Hadrians Wall, the 73-mile-long wall originally built by the Roman emperor, Hadrian, as a military fortification in the northern part of the Roman Empire. Part of the wall stands near Newcastle and the River Tyne in northern England.
The journalist soon realized that the great wall was not as revered as it once was, and that tourists chip off bits of its rocks and stones as souvenirs. In a conversation with one of the local residents the journalist mentioned that he was Jewish. If you are Jewish, then why dont you visit the thriving Jewish neighborhood not far from here? he was asked.
I didnt know there was one, he replied.
He was directed to the Jewish community in Gateshead, it was a mere two miles from where he had been standing. When he arrived there, he was taken to the home of the Rosh Yeshivah, Rabbi (Arye Zev) Leib Gurwicz , the son-in-law of Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian. After speaking with him for a little while, Rav Leib asked the journalist to accompany him to
the beis medrash of the yeshivah. (Rav Mattisyahu Salomon told me he remembers the day of the journalists visit to the beis medrash.)
As he entered with the Rosh Yeshivah, the journalist was awestruck by what he heard and saw. There were close to 200 fellows in the beis medrash. Some were concentrating on various texts, some were arguing, some were deliberating. Hands were waving, fingers were pointing, nearly a hundred animated conversations and debates were going on simultaneously.
Just what is going on here? asked the bewildered journalist.
I wanted you to see this, said the perceptive Rosh Yeshivah, so that you would understand something. You came to write about a wall that was built by Hadrian [Hebrew: Adriyanus]. It was under his rule that Rabbi Akiva was convicted of teaching Torah publicly and eventually martyred. Yet, today few people know of Hadrian. His descendants do not exist, few of his writings exist, and the Roman Empire itself does not exist. However, these boys in this study hall, and in study halls throughout the world, are still debating the writings and the thoughts of Rabbi Akiva! These young men here and young men like them around the world are all the spiritual descendants of Rabbi Akiva! Hadrian thought that by having Rabbi Akiva killed, he would halt the transmission of Torah. In reality, it is just the opposite. Torah and Rabbi Akiva live in the minds and hearts of Jews everywhere.
I told our group that in 1953, the Ponevezher Rav, along with his friend Dr. Moshe Rothschild, founder of the Mayanei Yehoshua Hospital Bnei Brak hospital, came to this spot in Rome. Looking up at the daunting arch, the Rav proclaimed out loud, Titus, Titus, You thought you would destroy the Beis HaMikdash and defeat Am Yisrael. You thought you would take the holy implements to Rome and leave us, Bnei Yisrael, with nothing. What remains of you, Titus? Not a single remnant. But we are still here! We were victorious. We can be found everywhere, sitting and learning Torah in every corner. Titus, Titus we defeated you!
After relating these incidents, I pointed to the carving within the arch and suggested that perhaps the etching symbolizes for us the difficult journey that we are making through the Diaspora. It began then and is moving to its inevitable, glorious end with the coming of Moshiach. However the journey can only continue if we maintain the standards of Torah study and mitzvah observance symbolized by the Menorah. Shlomo Hamelech wrote, Ki ner mitzvah vTorah ohr, [Every] mitzvah is a lamp and [the study of] Torah is a light (Mishlei 6:23).
On Chanukah when we celebrate with lights we must know what true Jewish light is, Mitzvos and the study of Torah. Perhaps this is why the Arch of Titus is still there: to remind Jews in exile that only by continuing to carry that which the Menorah stands for will we make it to the end of the journey.
The Maggid Rabbi Paysach Krohn
2My grandfather used to repeat the above explanation of how they found the oil, almost every Chanukah and I always found it a bit strange.
However, at publication, I came across a small book called Drashas Toras Chessed (so named for it contains the first sermon of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Lublin, zl, writer of the Toras Chessed Responsa, printed in 5695). At the the end of that book I discovered that my grandfather had thought of the same explanation as that of the Shach on the Chumash, who also explained that the Chashmonaim found Yaakovs oil jug. He adds that the same jug was also used in anointing the Temple vessels.
The Toras Chessed explains that Kohen Gadol whose seal was found on it was the same Kohen Gadol who had officiated at the anointing of the Temple vessels.
Another thought I had about finding the jug sealed with the Kohen Gadols seal is this: (This is from my pamphlet on Chanukah Shemen lmeor, and I suggested the idea to my grandfather, who liked it.)
The Gemara in Shabbos 21b explains: What is Chanukah? (i.e. for which miracle was it instituted? - Rashi) The Rabbis taught... When the Hellenists entered the sanctuary, they defiled all the oil that was found there. When the government of the House of Hasmoneans prevailed and conquered them, oil was sought and only one flask was found with the seal of the High Priest intact. This flask contained sufficient oil for only one day, but a miracle occurred, and it fed the menorah for eight successive days. (It was hidden, and sealed with the imprint of the Kohen Gadols ring, and they were able to tell it had been untouched - Rashi)
A. Why do we need to know who sealed it is it significant that it was the Kohen Gadols seal?
B. What was the Kohen Gadols seal doing there anyway? Is the law that the Kohen Gadol needed to seal all oil jugs? If there is such a law, why is it discussed nowhere in the Gemara or Rambam?
C. The Gemara reads that there was only oil for one day, however in the Sheiltot of Rav Achaai Gaon it reads there wasnt even enough for one day (Sheilta 26) and although the Haamek Shaila (number 27) proposes to amend the text to read like that of our Gemara, he himself notes that the Sefer HaEshkol (Chanukah, beginning) quotes this Sheiltot as reading there wasnt even enough for one day, adding that even the first day was a miracle.
[He intends to answer the question of the Bais Yosef (Orach Chaim 670) as to why there are eight days of Chanukah when the miracle was only for seven days. The answer is that the first day was a miracle too. This answer is mentioned in Yomin DChanukah (Jerusalem, 5734) chapter 27:8, written by the Rebbe of Erloy and the Birkei Yosef (chapter 670) in the name of Rabennu Yerucham (Nesiv 9) and in the commentary of the Sheelas Shalom on the Sheiltot.]
At any rate this seems to be an established text, and so the question is why did they fill the menorah in the first place with so little oil, knowing that it could not last even one night?
We find a curious division in levels of Chanukah lighting; the mitzvah itself, mehadrin, and mehadrin min hamehadrin - the superlative way of lighting. We do not find different levels of fulfillment for other mitzvos, only here. Why? (In Chapter 15 of Yomin DChanukah, the author demonstrates from various sources that the true fulfillment of lighting the Chanukah lights is the best one. This too needs explanation)
The Rambam in discussing the laws of the oil used in the Temple says (Isurei Mizbeach 7:8) Nine levels of oil quality are counted: an olive that sprouted at the top of the tree and