The Key Ingredient
A Good Chodesh!
Let’s start with a few questions about the wording of "על הניסים":
"כשעמדה מלכות יון הרשעה…להשכיחם תורתך ולהעבירם מחקי רצונך"
1) Why does it say "להשכיחם תורתך" and not "להשכיחם תורה"? Why do we say that Yavan came to make the Jews forget Your Torah and not just Torah in general?
2) Why do we say "ולהעבירם מחקי רצונך"? Why not just "ולהעבירם מרצונך"? Weren’t the Yevanim against following Ratzon Hashem altogether? Why do we specify the חוקים?
The Gemara in Nedarim (81a) asks the following: why did we lose Eretz Yisrael? Because we didn’t make Birchas Ha'torah before we started learning. The Bach (siman 47) comments that the people in that generation learned plenty of Torah, they just didn’t make Birchas Ha'torah first. But why is Birchas Ha'torah so significant? Isn’t the goal to be learning the Torah? Obviously we should make Birchas Ha'torah, but is it such a terrible sin if we don’t?
There are two aspects to learning Torah. The first aspect is the practical understanding and intellectual internalization of the content. We do this with all information - whether the information is Torah or not Torah. The second aspect is our connection with Hashem, the נותן התורה. We learn Torah to connect with Hashem and become one with Him. This, we only do with Torah. When we learn any non-Torah content, we have no goal of connection to the source of the ideas we are learning. With Torah, if one is learning without the goal of connecting to the source of the ideas, they have missed the essential meaning and purpose behind Torah learning.
With this in mind, we can understand why not making Birchas Ha'torah was considered so severe. We make Berachos because we believe in Hashem and in our connection to Him. When we say Birchas Ha'torah, we are saying to Hashem that “I am about to learn Torah and I am striving to understand the content that I am learning. But I am going into this intellectual pursuit with the knowledge that this is not like any other intellectual pursuit. I’m learning because I’m hungry to be Davuk to You, Hashem. This is Kadosh and connects me to You, and therefore I make a Beracha on this pursuit.”
Says the Lubavitcher Rebbe זי"ע: the Yevanim appreciated logic and philosophy. They could respect the Torah as a philosophical and intellectual system. But the Yevanim opposed our connection to Hashem. The Yevanim can get behind the first aspect of why we learn Torah. They also believed in knowledge and philosophy. But the second aspect, the aspect of Kedushah and Deveykus to the Nosein Ha'torah, they opposed.
This is why we say "להשכיחם תורתך" and not להשכיחם תורה the Yevanim’s main opposition wasn’t the Limud Ha'torah itself. It was the fact that it was תורתך, Hashem’s Torah. The Yevanim wanted us to believe that this is my Torah. My intellectual pursuit. Nothing to do with Hashem.
This is also why we said "ולהעבירם מחקי רצונך" instead of just "ולהעבירם מרצונך". Torah can often be logical. The Yevanim can understand fulfilling Torah as part of a deep philosophy. But חוקים are fulfilled without knowing the reason. We only fulfill חוקים because of our connection to Hashem. This is exactly the concept that the Yevanim opposed.
May we all be Zoche this Chanukah, to continue to fight the battle against the Yevanim. Not just to learn the Torah but more importantly, to connect to the Nosein Ha'torah.
Rav Josh Schulz