Chanukah: Revealing the Hidden Light
Rebbe Nachman writes (in Likutey Moharan 2:12): “the root of the entire creation is glory. Everything that God created was for His glory…And since everything was created for God’s glory, God’s glory is thus the root of all creation.”
Simply speaking, the practical halacha is that we need to honor God. How do we honor God? The Gemara recounts that a person’s will is his honor. So also, when we do the will of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, that’s how we honor Him. God revealed to us what His will is, by way of the Torah, and by way of Tzaddikim, and we need to do Hashem’s will in every place, and with every matter, and in all regards.
The whole of creation rests on one single foundation – to reveal the glory of Hashem. This world is one of hester panim (where God hides His face). Each of us lives in their own private reality, and each day God renews His ‘hiddenness’. Each day, we have more tests, each one of us has to pass through countless trials and tribulations, confusions and doubts. What do we need to do?
A Jewish person in this world needs to search for, make an effort and want to believe in Hashem, and reveal Hashem’s dominion in the world, and to reveal within himself the closeness and connection to Hashem. This is the will of Hashem! Hashem wants us to draw closer to Him from the midst of the hardships, and from the midst of all our difficulties.
Rebbe Nachman says:
The whole of creation, the whole point of the world, everything that happens to each and every one of us from the time that we came down to the world until the coming of Moshiach Tzidkaynu – everything is so that we’ll fight, and make an effort and exert ourselves to come close to God, so that we’ll feel Him, and believe in Him, and accept His rulership over us.
Rebbe Nachman says: Despite the fact that the root of all creation is one – to do the will of Hashem – despite this, there are still a lot of different parts to this. One of the ways of understanding this matter is by looking at the material world, at the globe. There are many countries in the world, and many places, but in every place around the globe a single spiritual light shines, that helps us to come closer to God.
There’s a very big difference between the spiritual illumination that can be found in the USA, and the spiritual illumination that can be found in Morocco or Russia. One of the most obvious differences is that the whole world is fundamentally different from Eretz Yisrael. The spiritual illumination that shines in Eretz Yisrael is intrinsically completely different from every other place in the whole world.
Every Jew in his own location needs to search for that place’s appropriate way to come closer to God. This will change from person to person, from day to day, and from place to place, but in each place there is a spiritual illumination that is able to draw people closer to Hashem by its light, as the verse says:
“The whole world is full of His glory” – i.e. it’s possible to draw closer to Hashem from every place.
In the continuation of that lesson, Rebbe Nachman asks: “There’s a verse that says: “His glory he won’t give to acher (another)” and the explanation of this is that there is a place called acher which God is not willing to light up with His glory, which is to say that there is no revelation of Hashem’s glory there.
Rebbe Nachman refers to this place by the name: ‘impure places and houses of idol worship’. Rav Natan explains that Rebbe Nachman is talking about the two aspects of this place. ‘Impure places’ is referring to the place of the deepest lusts. Every person has lusts and trials, but it can happen that a person falls so far down into his lusts that it’s said of him that he fell into ‘nukva detehuma raba’ – the ‘delight of the great abyss’, which means in practice that this person has already been driven mad by his lusts. It’s said of a person that falls into this place that he fell into an ‘impure place’.
“Houses of idol worship” refers to all the different types of foreign wisdoms, ideas and philosophies that distances a person from emuna, and from Hashem. These places are so full of heresy, a person can no longer return from there to having emuna and believing in Hashem.
Rebbe Nachman asks: How do these places exist, if Hashem’s life-giving force is not to be found there? What spiritual aspect is keeping these ‘impure places’ and house of idol worship going? He answers: These places are illuminated by ‘Bereishit mamar sitom’ (the hidden 10th statement of creation) – ‘ the light of keter (the crown)’, which is the hidden light that was created during the six days of creation, hidden away, and that will shine for Am Yisrael in the future at the time of redemption.
Today, our reality is that this light still hasn’t been revealed except in a very hidden, concealed way in these ‘impure places’ and houses of idol worship – i.e. in the darkest places that are the furthest away from Hashem! And this is a great wonder, that the biggest light of all should be found in the lowest of places.
There are souls who have fallen to these very lowest of places. While it’s true that the or haganuz, the hidden light, still shines there, this only happens in an enormously concealed and hidden way. Trying to reveal Hashem in these places is the hardest thing of all, because this light is so very hidden there.
Rav Natan asks: Nevertheless, we see in our generation, and also in the previous generations, that there were Jews who were completely submerged in these ‘impure places’ and houses of idol worship who eventually escaped from them, and who made teshuva. How did they escape from there, and draw closer to God?
He answers that there are very big Tzaddikim whose all purpose in this world revolves around one thing only: to rectify the neshamot (souls) of Israel. These Tzaddikim petition Hashem, and pray constantly that all of Am Yisrael should make teshuva, and they also pray on behalf of those souls who have fallen into the ‘impure places’ and houses of idol worship.
They say: Ribono Shel Olam, Master of the world, return them to You!
Hashem answers them: “I said ‘I won’t give My glory to acher!’ They fell into those places, and I’m not going to help them. I’m not going to reveal my rulership, I’m not going to reveal the light of Torah and emuna in those places!”
This is the conversation that occurs between the soul of the Tzaddik and Hashem.
The Tzaddik understands that it’s impossible to help these souls by the regular routes. According to the way the world was created to operate, which was established during the six days of creation, there is no way to help the souls who have fallen into these ‘impure places’ and houses of idol worship.
At the same time, the Tzaddik also understands that there absolutely still has to be some other way of helping them, as it’s written: “that you won’t be completely pushed away from Him.” And that this alternative route involves his own mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice), and accepting upon himself all the disgrace, and the murderous punishments, and the torments the world contains, solely in order to help these neshamot.
And so, the Tzaddik accepts the most terrible suffering upon himself in order to help these souls. In the merit of the Tzaddik’s self-sacrifice, Hashem then shine His light down to these souls, in the places where they find themselves, and then they can also escape from there.
Rebbe Nachman reveals something wondrous to us:
Because these ‘impure places’ and houses of idol worship are sustained in a concealed way by the or haganuz (hidden light), when a person falls into these places and then escapes from them, he will merit to see the actual or haganuz revealed to him.
The or haganuz is a very big gift, because usually the only people who can receive the or haganuz are the biggest Tzaddikim, the unique ones in their generation, who take terrible suffering upon themselves for the sake of Am Yisrael – or baal teshuvas, (returnees to Jewish observance) who escaped from the ‘impure places’ and houses of idol worship. The or haganuz is the daat (spiritual knowledge) taught by the true Tzaddik, the light of Rebbe Nachman. All of the Tzaddik’s Torah lessons is pulled along by the or haganuz.
This is such a spiritually lofty thing, that the yetzer hara (evil inclination) can’t touch it, or destroy it.
So, we see a person who wants to make teshuva, and who wants to start rectifying himself, but the yetzer hara has managed to prevent him from doing this by placing all the obstacles that exist in the world around him. But when we successfully manage to associate ourselves with the Tzaddik’s daat, with Rebbe Nachman, a whole bunch of new doors – and new paths – suddenly open up for us.
So it is that we hope and pray that the light of Rebbe Nachman will be enticed more and more out into the world. Because the more that the daat and the advice of the Tzaddik are known and revealed in the world, the more people will make teshuva.
In the meanwhile, let’s take more of a look at the Chanuka story, to learn more about the Torah’s light. Greek culture is the root of all the klipot (husks of evil), and it still exists even in our times – Western culture is the direct continuation of Greek culture.
Greek culture contained a couple of different aspects:
Firstly, Greek philosophy – the ‘Elders of Athens’ who come from the aspect of ‘houses of idol worship’ – i.e. the type of wisdom that distances a person from believing in Hashem.
Secondly, the culture of beauty-worship, and glorifying the body, which comes from the aspect of ‘impure places’.
At the time of the Greeks, the majority of Am Yisrael was caught up in following Greek culture, and had fallen into these aspects of ‘impure places’ and houses of idol worship, and had become very distanced from really believing in Hashem, and from keeping the Torah’s commandments.
In order to escape from these places, there had to be some very big Tzaddikim who were prepared to sacrificed themselves to the nth degree for Am Yisrael. It’s written in our holy books that when the Hashmonaim went out to war against the Greeks, they were a handful of people at the beginning, really just numbering in the tens, and then afterwards they grew to be a few hundred people – against the multitudes and many thousands of the Greek army!
When they went out to war, they didn’t think for a moment that they’d ever be able to win; they were fighting with the intention of dying al kiddush Hashem, to sanctify God’s name. But they experienced a number of extraordinary miracles, and they were victorious.
When they got to the Temple, and they wanted to reinstitute the Temple service, they saw that the Greeks had defiled all the oil. When they conducted another thorough search, they managed to find one small jug of oil that was still sealed with the stamp of the Kohen HaGadol, and so was still pure.
And by a miracle, that oil burned for eight days.
The Greeks didn’t spill out or take the jugs of oil that were in the Temple for themselves, rather, they just defiled them. And this is a wonder, what was going on, that the Greeks dafka just decided to defile the oil?
Rav Natan explains that the Greeks did what they did with great cunning and cleverness, they were ‘clever for evil’, and they knew the secret of this oil. The light of the Torah used to flow down to all of the nation of Israel by way of the light of the candles that were kindled on the Temple’s menorah.
The Greeks wanted to destroy the minds and the daat (spiritual wisdom) of Am Yisrael. That’s why they defiled all of the oil, so there wouldn’t be any spiritually pure oil that could be used to kindle the menorah. By doing this, they hoped there would no longer be any true daat or Torah within the nation of Israel.
When the Hasmoneans came and lit the menorah with the pure oil from that little jug, the chachamim (Jewish Sages) could see and feel a new illumination of daat and Torah descending from the menorah – the Torah of the or haganuz.
On Chanukah, in the merit of the Hasmonean’s enormous self-sacrifice, Hashem illuminated the Temple menorah with the or haganuz, in order to help Am Yisrael break away and become purified from the terrible klipa (evil husk) of Greek culture.
So the Sages instituted Chanuka as a festival for all future generations, in the merit of the small jug of pure oil that burned for eight days, in order that we would merit that the or haganuz which descended on Chanukah then, would also descend in our days, too, at the time that we would light our menorahs.
May it be Hashem’s will that we will merit to experience this.
 A term that appears frequently in the Gemara, always denoting the ‘wise men’ of Greece who would come and debate questions of religion and philosophy with the Jewish Sages.