On the fifth night of Chanukah, the Inwood Kollel held its annual Chanukah mesiba at its temporary home at the Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island. The rosh kollel, Rabbi Shlomo Cohen, and special guest speaker, Rabbi Yechezkel Hartman, graced the kollel members with divrei Torah and chizuk.
Rabbi Cohen asked, “On Chanukah we dedicated the Beis HaMikdash, however we don’t have the Beis HaMikdash in our time, so why are celebrating? The Yevanim were trying to destroy Yiddishkeit, and even though we don’t have the Beis HaMikdash, the fact alone that we have our Yiddishkeit is worthy of celebration.”
On a deeper level, the Kedushas Halevi asks, “Why do we celebrate the victory of Chanukah, when the Jewish people have had many victories over the centuries?” He answers that Chazal saw by prophecy that the hashpa’ah (influence) of Chanukah was going to be felt throughout time. That is what we feel even today; when we go through Chanukah, we gain tremendous spiritual awakening.
We see that even small amounts of light can push away tremendous amounts of darkness. Whereas Purim is only one day, while living through an entire week of Chanukah we are able to take our little bit of light and see that while living our normal life we have the ability to transform the ordinary into the spectacular.
Rabbi Cohen further explained that this is the embodiment of the Inwood Kollel. While many kollel members find themselves in other pursuits during the day, nevertheless the focal point of their day is the learning that they do together. This focus on learning Torah as a group transforms the entire day.
Rabbi Yechezkel Hartman shared divrei Torah with the kollel. The Gemara in Yoma asks what the distinction is between Purim and Chanukah. It says that the last miracle we have is Purim, yet chronologically we see that Chanukah was more recent as Purim was some 200 years earlier! The Gemara answers that Purim is considered the more recent holiday because it was destined to be written down, but Chanukah was not able to be written down. What is the significance of Chanukah not being able to be written down?
We know of the dual miracle of Chanukah: the oil lasted eight days, and we were victorious in war. There was a difference of approach between the persecution of Yavan (Greece) and the other nations that persecuted Klal Yisrael.
While the rest of the world persecutes us by killing us, the Greeks weren’t interested in destroying our physical nature but rather our spiritual foundation. On a deeper level, Rav Hutner says in Pachad Yitzchak that by stopping us from doing mitzvos, the Yevanim were taking away our essence. Klal Yisrael, our nation, has two levels of existence. One level is what we actually do (on the surface), and another level is that aspect of what’s underneath the surface for us (says R’ Tzadok HaCohen).
So when we go to vanquish Yavan, it’s not sufficient to just conquer them in the physical realm that would show we are defending our actions, but we must also demonstrate the inner spiritual holiness of our nation, which is signified, according the Maharal, by the neiros Chanukah. The ner represents the neshamah and the spirituality of Klal Yisrael, as we say “Ner Hashem Nishmas Adam.” The lighting of the candles reveals that our relationship with Hashem is far more than merely what we do on the surface.
Yavan misunderstood our relationship with Hashem as limited to what we do. Chanukah teaches us that we are more than just what we do—what’s in our hearts and the special connection we have with Hashem that is normally concealed. We need more than just the physical victory; the light of Chanukah shows us the deeper connection between Klal Yisrael and Hashem.
The B’nai Yissoscher says one of the reasons that Chanukah is referred to as Chanukah is because it’s a “chinuch” and forerunner of the ultimate redemption we are going to have at the arrival of Mashiach. The beginning of revelation of the hidden is going to be completely revealed at the time of Mashiach. This is a glimpse of the ultimate revelation for when Mashiach comes.
The Inwood Kollel, in its eighth year, learns Monday through Thursday nights from 8:15 to 9:50 p.m. followed by Ma’ariv. The kollel is graciously hosted by the Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island at 321 Doughty Blvd in Inwood and would like to extend special thanks to Avi Feldman, Moshe Reisman, and Yehuda Michaeli for arranging the Chanukah Mesibah. The kollel is currently learning two tracks—hilchos basar b’chalav under the direction of rosh chabura Rav Aaron Knobel (and under the guidance of HaRav Feivel Cohen, shlita, possibly leading to semichah), and Perek Arvei Pesachim under the direction of rosh chabura Rav Yehuda Schiff. The kollel has a Thursday-night mishmar after Ma’ariv followed by an Ohr HaChaim Parashas Hashavua shiur with Rav Yitzchok Gross, accompanied by refreshments.
The kollel is in the final stages of its building campaign and planning a Chanukas Habayis, iy’H, in spring of 2017. The kollel is renovating an abandoned shul building at 44 Bayswater Blvd in Inwood, the former Jewish Community Center of Inwood. There are a number of unique and affordable sponsorship opportunities still available. The kollel works closely with many local rabbanim to create and maintain a program that strives for Torah learning l’shma for kollel fellows and for working bnei Torah. In its new home, the kollel is poised to increase its unique programming 24/7 l’hagdil Torah v’l’hadira to serve Inwood and the greater Five Towns community. For sponsorship opportunities or more information about joining the kollel, please call Rabbi Shlomo Cohen at 347-224-1152.