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The History of Chanukah

The Menorah Files

   Light 1: The Contract

Light 2: The Consultant

Light 3: Quality

Light 4: Quantity

Light 5: Prozac

Light 6: Miracle Whip

Light 7: The Battle

Light 8: Darkness Shines

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The Significance of Chanukah

 Light 2: The Consultant Light 4: Quantity

The Menorah Files

Light 3: Quality
Published and copyright © 1997-1999 by by Tzvi Freeman
In memory of Rabbi Yosef Y. Kazen o.b.m.

Quality Miracles is known for their high-end, lavish presentations. This one was no let-down. The upbeat, surround-sound music came on, the lights dimmed, and in a sprinkle of sparks, a sales associate dramatically appeared at stage center cupping in his hands a small golden unlit lamp.

"Brother angels, behold with your eyes!"

His hands opened and the lamp came in full view of all the court. The enlightened beings gasped in unison.

"Yes, you all recall! It is the holy lamp that was lit by those most transcendent and magnificent of beings, the Matriarchs of the Souls of Israel, Sarah and Rivka!"

Now the 3D video came on. The image of Sarah leaning her shining countenance of beauty over the Shabbat lamp in the pre-twilight of the Negev brought tears to the eyes of the Angels of Sensitivity. The hearts of the most judgmental beings were captured as, with breathtaking focus and inspiration, she uttered the words as though counting golden coins,

"Blessed are You, ______ our All-Pervasive Force, Master of the Cosmos, Who has made us wholly transcendent through His mitzvahs and enjoined us to light the lamp of the Holy Shabbos."

Then, as she waved gently her hands over the flame, serene light flashed out in all directions, illuminating upper and lower worlds.

"And so," the agent from Quality continued, "you must remember the great and wondrous miracle that occurred then, how the Natural Order of Things was transcended so the pure light of this magnificent being could illuminate all the worlds for an entire week, every week, for her entire life, and for the life of her heiress Rivka, as well! To this day, that miracle empowers every Jewish woman and girl to light up her world just the same!"

In a brilliant twist of suspense, the music found its way to a sudden silence, the video halted on a still frame. "And who engineered that miracle?" The sales rep's voice echoed through the marble hall.

With eye-riveting form, the still image morphed into the logo of "Quality Miracles" as the multitude of high-res amplifiers burst forth with "Quality! Quality Miracles! The natural solution to all your miracle needs!"

The music ended on a sharp climax, the video faded away, and the crowd burst into applause as the lights came back up.

The Quality Miracles VP of Development strutted forth. Riding on the excitement in the air, he began promptly. "Of course, the Chanukah Miracle project presents certain features that were not present in the Sarah and Rebecca scenario. We've noted the two most significant: The Sarah and Rebecca lamp only burnt for seven days- this miracle must occur for eight. Secondly, the Shabbat Lamp was a single miracle spread over an extended duration of time, whereas, in our case the Menora must be rekindled every afternoon, thereby providing eight distinct miracles."

The wise members of the court stroked their silvery beards and nodded their heads in heedfulness. Rabbi Yosef Karo only stared intently, as though precipitating every word.

"We believe our previous implementation can be easily extended to fill these requirements. And now, here is our senior engineer for an explanation of the technology behind this amazing accomplishment."

A complex chart appeared at the presenter's position as the senior engineer stepped forward. It was one of those charts that only an angel could read, describing in multiple dimensions the links and chains that serve as the backbone of created entities.

"Over here," the engineer pointed, "we see the letters, or combination of forces that form the word 'shemen'- meaning 'oil'. This connects with the Divine source of olives, as we see in this link, here. Note the intimate connection with the sphere of Wisdom of the World of Emanation, which is preserved throughout the creative process. As this linkage descends below, olive oil is manifested in each of the worlds, in each according to the parameters of that world. Finally, as it descends into the lowest world, the 'World of Action and Physicality', it becomes an actual material substance, derived by the crushing or squeezing of physical olives."

"As you are well aware, most miracles are performed by invasive fiddling with the mechanics of such links and letter combinations. Turning water to blood, dust into lice, vinegar into oil are all examples of such 'rearrangements' of the system."

"Our strategy is far less invasive: You'll notice there is quite a bit of leeway in the quality dimension of this particular linkage. This explains why every olive produces its own quality of oil, with a wide margin of variety, especially in combustibility. Our technique is to hyper-extend that quality margin, thereby manifesting in the target olive oil down there an enormous capacity to burn- even to eight times the original average power."

It was obvious the judges were impressed with the professionalism, thoroughness and high entertainment value of the presentation. Heads turned towards each other, sharing comments and nods of approval. The VP of Development strutted back on stage and opened the floor to questions.

Yosef Karo alone appeared unmoved. He looked about him, shook his head almost with disdain, and spoke asser-tively at the VP. "Being from a practical world, where nitty-gritty details matter, I am still unclear on your proposal."

The engineer got out his charts again, preparing to explain things in greater depth.

"No, I don't mean your schematics, or your software code or any of that. I'm talking about the human interface. How does this actually get implemented?"

The Quality Team members looked a bit shaken. They were experts in high tech solutions. Humans were a necessary component in implementation, but not one that got a lot of attention.

"To be specific," continued Yosef Karo, "what exactly are the Maccabees supposed to do with this oil on the first afternoon they light it?"

"Well," answered the VP slowly and cautiously as though sensing a trap, "They put the oil in the cups of the Menora, like they always used to do, and they light it."

"And how much oil do they put in?"

The engineer jumped in. "One eighth! Why should they put in any more? They only need one eighth, so that's how much they'll put in!"

Now one of the judges took a stab. "But how are they supposed to know that one eighth is going to last through the entire night?"

The VP was struggling to hold his cool as murmurs were heard throughout the assembly. An employee rushed up to whisper something in his ear. "Yes, we've taken that into consideration," he continued. "There's a contingency allowance to sub-contract Echo Communications, a firm that deals in supplying earthly beings with minor levels of prophecy, sometimes known as 'Ruach Hakodesh'. You'll find that clause on page..."

The employee who had done the whispering could no longer contain himself and interjected, "Actually, they'll probably figure it out on their own. They'll say, look, if the Almighty only gave us one flask of pure oil and of course He knows we can't get any replacement for eight days, it must be this is super-eight powered oil."

Most of the judges were not impressed with this response, being rather skeptical of the mental capacity of most earthly beings. The VP glanced over his shoulder at his employee with a biting cold stare, then turned back to his audience swiftly donning a warm smile. "By the way," he noted, "you'll observe that with this solution there is a separate miracle each of the eight days. Each night only a little bit of oil burns an entire night. Every night a new miracle, for eight nights just as the contract tender required."

"The eight days is just wonderful and some minor prophecy is fine with me." The voice of Yosef Karo broke through the confusion, commanding silence. "I have a different problem with your solution." The VP's neck was outstretched as Yosef Karo continued.

"As you know, the Torah does not state a precise quantity of oil to be placed in the Menora for each lighting, only that there should be enough to last for the longest nights of the winter. Our sages determined this amount to be a little over six fluid ounces. Just so happens, that's the amount found in that little flask down there. Which means, they're going to have to put the whole thing in."

"Aha," the ChairAngel spoke now, "that would be true in general, but here, remember, with this oil, one eighth is the appropriate amount for the longest nights of the winter! On the contrary, putting more would mean a violation of the halacha you just cited!"

"With all due respect to his honored chair, I've yet to finish," continued Yosef Karo, calmly, "There is another halacha that applies to all the vessels in the Holy Temple. Out of respect for their sanctity, whenever they are filled they must be filled entirely."

The VP beamed, oblivious to the trap laid for him. "So we will have them fill the entire thing the first night! And then, only an eighth will burn the first night, another eighth the second..."

Karo pounced like a tiger. "But didn't the ChairAngel just declare that to be a violation of the halacha!!! You'll have eight times the established amount the first night, seven times on the second, and so on."

The hall burst into an uproar of debate. The brilliant counter-offence of Yosef Karo had the entire heavenly court ignited. With Quality's solution there seemed no way out: You could fulfill one requirement or the other - but there was no way to fulfill both.

Above the confusion, another judge yelled out, "Filling the vessel to the brim is an non-compulsory requirement! Let them fill up only an eighth, since that's all they can do!"

"First of all," Yosef Karo replied, commanding immediate silence, "the whole thing is non-compulsory to begin with. The Maccabees really could light with impure oil. When the entire community is in a state of impurity, such as they are after a war, impure offerings are permitted as per the Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim, folio 80a.."

"So what's the whole deal with this contract tender for a miracle?!" The VP waved a paper in exasperation.

"Think for a minute," Karo reasoned. "Why did they search so hard for ritually pure oil when they could have used any old oil given the circumstances? And why did the Almighty contract the previous miracle of providing a hidden, untouched flask? Wasn't it all in order that they should perform the Menora lighting in the most perfect way, not just 'so-so and get it over with'?"

"And that is the job of Heaven, inc.," he declared. "To perform a miracle that allows the Maccabees to go beyond the letter of the law, as they have committed themselves to do, for the sake of the eternity of the Jewish Nation!"

The judges were enthralled with the insights of Yosef Karo. Fascinated, they took in every word.

Lowering his voice mischievously, Karo continued. "Furthermore, who says they are allowed to fill the Menora only partially each day, when they could fill it to the brim?"

The VP from Quality timidly ventured, "And with what will they fill it to the brim each day if they only have one flask?"

"With impure oil!!" shot back Yosef Karo. "Since that is perfectly permissible under these conditions."

The entire court exploded into animated debate, reviewing, shaking their heads and waving their wings frantically. Once again, the ChairAngel called for order.

"I humbly propose," he advised his colleagues, "we consider another proposal."

 Light 2: The Consultant Light 4: Quantity

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