Why do we celebrate Chanukah?
1) The Jews were in danger of being physically wiped out by the hands of the Yevanim. Miraculously, Hashem intervened, delivering the few into the hands of the many and the weak into the hands of the mighty.
2) We found a jug of oil in the Beis Hamikdash that was supposed to last for only one day but instead lasted for a miraculous eight days.
The Gemara in Shabbos teaches us that Chanuka was established because of the second option, the miracle of the oil.
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir from 1947-1978, asks: Shouldn’t Chanukah be established because of the incredible miracle of saving the lives of Klal Yisrael, ensuring the continuation of Torah for generations? The miracle of the lasting oil seemingly pales in comparison!
We can gain some insight from the journey of Yosef Hatzadik to Mitzrayim. Sold by his very own brothers into the hands of the Yishmaelim, the Medrash explains how the typical cargo of petroleum and resin, are known for their terribly unpleasant odors. Yet this time, sacks full of spices accompanied Yosef on his travels. Let’s try to enter Yosef’s thought process: he, the favored son of Yaakov Avinu, chosen to receive all the Torah that Yaakov had learned from Shem V’Ever, now finds himself sold by his brothers as a slave to a land from which he might never be liberated. What is the significance of the pleasant aroma around him when he felt so down and in despair?
Rav Chaim Shumuelevitz answers that the message of the good-smelling spices is a personal message from Hashem to Yosef. Hashem wanted Yosef to feel enveloped in the embrace of Hashem that says, “Emo Anochi B’tzara,” “I am with you.” You are not alone, and even these dark times are all part of My plan.
Now we can understand the miracle of the oil from a new perspective. The love of a father to a son is felt from the luxuries or items beyond necessities that the son receives from his father. These are “the kisses,” the expressions of love that the father grants his son. The incredible miracle of the military victory was a necessity because Hashem promised that Torah is eternal and will be passed down through the generations. However, the miracle of the oil was a luxury, a “kiss from Hashem,” to show His people how much He loves them.
The Avudraham writes that when we say in Al Hanisim, “Bayim Hahem Bazman Hazeh,” we are thanking Hashem for the miracles that we witness in our own personal lives. As the end of Chanukah is approaching, we would all benefit from seeking and identifying the “kisses of Hashem,” the moments of Hashgacha Pratis, where we perceive that Hashem is expressing His extra love to us.