Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Chanukah #5

We say in Maoz Tzur:

בני בינה ימי שמונה קבעו שיר ורננים
"Men of insight - eight days established for song and jubilation."

One must ask why only "Bnei Vinah" (men of insight) were able to establish Chanukah as a holiday lasting 8 days. Any Joe Schmoe could've seen that the candles lasted for 8 nights, and this is why the holiday lasts 8 days - what's so special about a Ben Vinah?

To understand why this is, we must understand the difference between a "chacham" (wise person) and a Mavin (like vinah; insightful person). A chacham is a person that is wise by virtue of the fact that he/she knows a lot of information, albeit a limited, finite amount. However, a Mavin is someone that takes the information he/she has and applies it elsewhere in life. With this in mind, we can understand why only the Mavinim were the ones to institute the holiday for 8 days.

The Ramban tells us that G-d shows us public miracles (ie, splitting the sea, candles lasting longer, etc.) in order so that we should come to see G-d even in things that aren't so mindblowing. Once we understand through public miracles that G-d controls the world, we can come to see that even things that work in the course of nature are also miracles in and of themselves.

The Beis Yosef asks his famous question of why we celebrate Chanukah for 8 days if the oil only lasted for 7 extra days past the amount it was supposed to stay lit for. If we are holding on the level where we realize that even things that work in the course of nature are miracles, then even the fact that oil burnt on the first night is a miracle. Sure, that's the way things work, but it doesn't have to be. This is precisely why only a "Ben Vinah" was able to establish the 8 days of Chanukah, because they are able to apply that which they see from the public miracle of the extra 7 days and see that the first day, too, was a miracle.

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