Zohs Chanukah – the last day of Chanuka holds all the joy of all the previous days of Chanuka and even more. It tells us “this” this eighth day is the symbol of what Chanukah is all about.
Hevel Havalim: seven times Shlomo Hamelech expresses the word Hevel, narishkeit [futilities/uselessness], in the beginning of his Sefer Koheles. Seven is the number that symbolizes everything about the Gashmiyus [temporal/physical] world. There are seven days of the week. There are seven primary colors. There are seven notes in song. There is much beauty in seven. But Shlomo calls it all Narishkeit. Why then did Hashem create it all?
Yavan, the nation that gave us problems in the times of the Chanuka story were grandchildren of Yafes. Yafes was the son of Noach named Yafes from the word Yafeh, beauty. In Braishis Raba we are told that the “beauty of Yafes should be expressed in Oholei Shaym”. The beauty of the world should be used to uphold and make more beautiful the Ruchniyos [spiritual]. Hashem created a beautiful world, full of song, full of color, full of wonder. The Swiss Alps, the Grand Canyon, the ability to paint, the splendor of a marble pillar – they were created to serve Ruchniyus. But Yafes in the times of the Chanuka story thought that the opposite should happen. Yefes/Yavan worshipped themselves and their ability to do wonderful things physically. Gyms were set up. So were colleges. Poetry flourished. Plays sparkled with wit and humor. This type of lifestyle is what Shlomo called Narishkeit.
Many people think that in the Chanuka story, Yavan wanted us to become completely Greek. That is not so. They just wanted us to “adapt” our Yiddishkeit, take a bit of Greek culture in and overpower the message of our Yiddishkeit by making it secondary to beauty and pageantry.
There is a beautiful Mashal [parable] about a town had that had a Soifer write a new Sefer Torah. When the Sefer Torah was completed, they wanted to have a beautiful mantel [Torah cloak] covering it. So the Roshei Kahal made a mantel-sewing contest and many women spent days trying to make the most beautiful one. Came the day of the contest end, and one woman gave a velvet mantele that was beyond beautiful. It was embroidered with precious threads and set with amazing stones. It was truly a work of art. There was no surprise among the people when the judges ruled that this mantele won the contest. Then they tried putting on the mantele and that is when there was a problem. The mantele was a bit too tight to fit over the new sefer torah. Reluctantly, the judges had to take another mantele that was not so beautiful. The lady who had sewed the beautiful mantele protested: “Don’t do that. Use my mantele. Look, there is no problem, just trim the Sefer Torah a bit and it will fit.” Everyone laughed and someone explained, “Lady, the mantele was created to fit the sefer torah. The sefer Torah is the eekar [main point]. We don’t trim Sifrei Torah to fit mantelech, no matter how beautiful the mantele could be.”
Yavan wanted the Jews to trim their Torah to fit into Greek culture. Yes, be Tzinyusdik, but be trendy – purple and a bit tight the top and a bit short the skirt. Keep Shabbos, but go see a movie Motzei Shabbos. Have the men sit and learn Torah, but let the women march into college. Change the Torah just a wee bit to fit the times. Wear a shaitel, if you so want, but around your Shabbos table discuss how to tone your body. Get married with Chuppah and Kidushin, but sit around and schmooze a whole bunch of couples together in some restaurant in Manhattan, flirting randomly.
Have fun. Enjoy this world. Enjoy the seven. That was Yafes. And because Yafes misused the beauty of the world by trying to trim the Torah to fit into their version of beauty, the Jews eventually were in an untenable position that begged for war.
What is 8? Eight is l’ma’ala min Hatevah, beyond this world. In the times of Moshiach there will be an 8th note in song, more beautiful than all the previous sevens. The Maccabim realized that a war was called for in those days, and although it made no logical sense for so few people to take up a war against the majority who liked Greek culture, they began fighting for spirituality – realizing that we are not bound to physical rules. The Maccabim fought until they won. “Rabbim b’yad Ma’atim” – the majority was defeated by the few who wanted sanctity. What did they do, once they won – marched into the Bais HaMikdash and rekindled the Menorah, the pure oil that symbolized pure Torah learning. They did not use dirty oil – anything that was metamtem [defiled] by the Yavanim were not for Torah learning, only the purest of oil was to be used. And the oil stayed lit for 8 days, showing them that ruchniyas [spirituality] always goes beyond gashmiyus [physicality].
If Yafes doesn’t know to use beauty to fit Torah, then we have to throw away their “mantelech”. When we light the Menorah we do it by the door. Just like a slave had his ear pierced by the door, we stand and declare when we light the Menorah, “we are slaves only to Hashem. Not to fashion. Not to money. Not to anything other than Hashem.”
Chanuka is in the month of Kislev, which can be read “kays loh” – the throne is His. We find the throne of Hashem described as a Kays when Moshe built a Mizbayach after Milchemes Amalek. There, Rashi explains that the word Keis is incomplete because as long as Amalek is around, there is not a complete throne for Hashem, because they will always try to get some of the Yidden to fall away from Hashem, get us to trade Kedusha for some empty physicality. However, the one thing we learn in Zohs Chanukah is that if we focus well, even in Golus, even before Yemos HaMashiach, we can make the Kays Loh – we can show our complete adherence to the Malchus of Hashem. And if we do that, ehriliche Yidden get carried beyond the physicality, to the 8th note of song, to the purity of the Menorah lasting until Zohs Chanuka, until the 8th day.