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The Second Shabbat of Chanuka

  • Harav Mosheh Lichtenstein
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Themes and Ideas in the Haftara
Yeshivat Har Etzion


This haftara series is dedicated in memory 
of our beloved Chaya Leah bat Efrayim Yitzchak
(Mrs. Claire Reinitz), zichronah livracha,
by her family.



The second Shabbat of Chanuka

Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein



            The haftara read on the second Shabbat of Chanuka (I Melakhim 7:40-50), which deals with Shelomo's construction of the Temple, is referred to by Chazal as "Nerot Shelomo" (the lamps of Shelomo"), and was already designated as the haftara for this Shabbat by the Gemara in Megila (31a):


On Chanuka [the Torah reading is the section dealing with] the Nesi'im [the princes of the tribes], and for the haftara we read "the lamps of Zekharya." If there are two Shabbatot, on the first one [we read] "the lamps of Zekharya," and on the second one [we read] "the lamps of Shelomo."


            The selection itself of the topic of the construction of the Temple as the haftara for Chanuka should not surprise us. It continues the line of thought adopted by Chazal regarding the Torah reading, which deals with the dedication of the Mishkan. Two questions may be asked, however, concerning this choice. First, we must examine the relationship between this haftara and the haftara read on the first Shabbat of Chanuka. If the account of the dedication of the Temple is the fitting subject of the haftara for Chanuka, similar to the Torah reading, why not read it on the first Shabbat of Chanuka, instead of the "lamps of Zekharya," which does not deal with the Mikdash in so explicit a fashion? Moreover, showing preference to "the lamps of Zekharya" over our haftara is not merely a matter of order, for in most years there is only one Shabbat Chanuka and not two, and therefore the haftara of the first Shabbat of Chanuka is the only haftara read on Chanuka. It is clear from Chazal, however, that the prophecy of Zekharya is given priority over the story told in the book of Melakhim, and that it is read as the first choice.


            Second, even if we want to emphasize the connection between Chanuka and the Temple, we must inquire about the meaning of the selection of this particular haftara out of all the sections in the book of Melakhim that deal with the construction and dedication of the Temple. In this context, it is important to note that several haftarot dealing with Shelomo's Temple and its construction are read as part of the annual cycle of haftarot in connection with the parashot of the Mishkan (including our haftara which is read as the haftara of Vayakhel or Pekudei depending on community custom, in years when one of the "four special Parashot" doesn't fill in this square). Thus, it would have been possible to choose a different section from among the chapters dealing with Shelomo in Melakhim, and not necessarily this section.


            First things first - let us begin with the first question. When we examine the two haftarot, we can easily identify significant differences between the two prophecies. Our haftara, which deals with the construction of the first Temple, describes the Temple in all its glory and splendor, whereas last week's haftara reflects a situation of wretchedness and inferiority, both political and spiritual. Shelomo builds a grand Temple, the spiritual and political state of the people is good and God reveals Himself to Israel at the dedication of the Temple. In Zekharya, in contrast, the High Priest, who is regarded as the spiritual representative of the people, is described as wearing filthy garments urgently in need of change and purification, and the political reality is described as a world of people who are regarded as brands plucked out of the infernal fire of exile. The gap between the two Temples – the first Temple and the second Temple – is striking to the eye. The reality described by Zekharya is not good, but his message is that it is possible to build on the existing foundations and exploit the tiny opening as a foothold for a larger construction. Zekharya's conclusion, announced several verses following the end of the haftara, is that one must not despise the day of small things, for salvation will grow from it. Shelomo, on the other hand, does not need this message, for the reality of his time was a grand and mighty day on which there transpired an impressive and uplifting dedication of the Temple.


            If we ask ourselves which of these two situations is more similar to the dedication of the Temple in the days of the Hasmoneans, we can answer by citing the Gemara in Menachot (27b), which describes the lighting of the menora by the Hasmoneans. This is the way the Gemara describes what happened in their day, as an aside to a discussion regarding the fashioning of Temple vessels for future generations: "As was done by the kings of the Hasmonean house… They were iron spits which they plated with tin; when they became more wealthy, they fashioned them out of silver; when they became even more wealthy, they fashioned them out of gold." In other words, not only are we not talking about a beautiful and ornate menora, but we are not even talking about a menora that was made especially for the Temple, but rather about weapons from which a menora was improvised for lack of a better alternative. Thus, it seems that the situation of the Hasmoneans was similar to the reality described by Zekharya, rather than the world of Shelomo.


            We see then that the section of "the lamps of Zekharya" reflects the situation at the time of the Hasmoneans, and that the words of the prophet serve as spiritual direction and prophetic guidance for dealing with the situation of "a day of small things." "The lamps of Shelomo," on the other hand, represent the ideal and the desirable for which we must strive. It is clear, then, why "the lamps of Zekharya" come before "the lamps of Shelomo" as the main haftara for Shabbat Chanuka, for the struggle with a vague and problematic present, and prophetic guidance and encouragement for the future, are much more important as an existential need than aspiring for an ideal. A vision of the desired reality serves as a model to aspire to, and the knowledge that such a reality once existed provides the strength and encouragement to continue, and in this lies its importance. This objective, however, is secondary in comparison to confrontation with the present, and therefore "the lamps of Shelomo" is only the second haftara.


            This point also finds expression in the attitude towards the non-Jewish nations. "The lamps of Shelomo" describes an ideal situation of cooperation between Israel and the nations, with Shelomo and Chiram building the Temple together.


            Thus we have related to the first question posed above regarding the preference given to "the lamps of Zekharya" over "the lamps of Shelomo" as the first haftara read on Chanuka. We turn now to the second question, namely, the selection of the particular section that was chosen as our haftara and preferring it to other chapters in the book of Melakhim. Here, too, we can make use of the previous distinction as a starting point to answer this question, namely, that our haftara emphasizes the perfection of Shelomo's Temple. It does not describe the basic construction of the walls or the vessels, but rather the decorative elements that were added to them:


The two pillars, and the two bowls of the capitals that were on the top of the two pillars; and the two networks, to cover the two bowls of the capitals which were upon the top of the pillars; and four hundred pomegranates for the two networks, two rows of pomegranates for each network to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were upon the pillars. (I Melakhim 7:41-42)


            This, however, is not the only place in these chapters that the Temple is described at this level of perfection. It, therefore, seems that the choice of this haftara is primarily related to the description of the lamps therein:


And the candlesticks of pure gold, five on the right side, and five on the left, before the inner sanctuary, with the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs of gold. (v. 49)


            Just as in the haftara in Zekharya there is a description of the menora ("the lamps of Zekharya"), so too in the haftara in Melakhim there is a description of the menora ("the lamps of Shelomo"), and this is the reason for reading it. Our job, then, is to understand the meaning of the menora in the haftara, and the connection between it and Chanuka. To further that end, we must see how the menora is presented in the Torah and in Halakha.


            The menora is mentioned in the Torah in six different contexts: 1) the command to fashion the menora in Parashat Teruma (Shemot 25:31-40); 2) at the beginning of Parashat Tetzave (Shemot 27:20-21); 3) together with the incense and the Temple service at the end of Parashat Tetzave (Shemot 30:7-8); 4) a description of its fashioning in Parashat Vayakhel (Shemot 37:17-24); 5) together with the showbread and the table at the end of Parashat Emor (Vayikra 24:1-4); and 6) at the beginning of Parashat Beha'alotekha, adjacent to the princes' offerings at the dedication of the Mishkan.


            An examination of these passages indicates that it is necessary to distinguish between the fashioning of the menora (which is mentioned in Parashat Teruma and Parashat Vayakhel) and the other sources that deal with the lighting of the menora. If we further examine the passages dealing with the lighting, it seems clear that they divide into two groups, the beginning of Parashat Tetzava and the end of Parashat Emor (nos. 2 and 5), on the one hand, and the end of Tetzava and Parashat Beha'alotekha (nos. 3 and 6), on the other. This division finds expression in the exceedingly similar stylistic and substantive characteristics within each of the two groups. Let us open with the more striking example, namely, the first group. It is immediately evident that the terminology used in the two passages is almost identical. Thus, the first verse in each passage: "And you shall command the children of Israel, that they bring you pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always" in Shemot, and "Command the children of Israel, that they bring you pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always" in Vayikra, which are identical, word for word, except for the address that substitutes "command" for "and you shall command." So too the two second verses are amazingly similar. In Shemot it is stated: "In the tent of Meeting outside the veil, which is before the Testimony, Aharon and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before the Lord; it shall be a statute for ever to their generations on behalf of the children of Israel." And in Vayikra we find: "Outside the veil of the Testimony, in the Tent of Meeting, shall Aharon order it from evening unto morning before the Lord continually; it shall be a statute for ever in your generations."


            The second group also uses similar wording, "And when Aharon lights the lamps at evening" and "Speak to Aharon… When you light the lamps," to describe the lighting of the menora in the two passages.


            What is more, this division expresses not only similar style, but also common substantive characteristics. In this context, two important points stand out - emphasis on the oil and the people of Israel in the first group, as opposed to emphasis on the lit lamp and the priests in the second group.


Without expanding at length on a topic that has many halakhic ramifications,[1] it may be argued that these two groups express two different elements that are fulfilled through the menora. The first is the very lighting of the menora and maintenance of a fire in the Temple. This principle finds expression in the words of the Gemara (Shabbat 22b) about the lit lamp as an expression of the resting of the Shekhina and the relationship between God and the people of Israel:


Does He then require its light: surely, during the entire forty years that the Israelites travelled in the wilderness they travelled only by His light! - Rather, it is a testimony to mankind that the Shekhina rests in Israel. What is the testimony? — Rav said: That was the western lamp [of the menora] in which the same quantity of oil was poured as into the rest, and yet he kindled [the others] from it and ended therewith.


            The emphasis is on the light, and not on the menora, and the explanation given is intended to clarify the objective of the light. This is the principle that finds expression in the second group of verses. The importance of the matter lies in the lit lamp serving as a sign of the connection between the people of Israel and God. Until the days of Shimon the Tzadik, the western lamp would burn by way of a miracle and express the connection that God creates with man. Afterwards, the priest would light the western lamp every morning while trimming the lamps, and express thereby Israel's connection to their Father in heaven. Just as prophecy constitutes God's word to man, and prayer man's word to God, so that the two of them constitute the two sides of the connection between God and man, so too the lamp that is lit in the Temple's menora symbolizes the mutual connection between the Shekhina and Israel.


            The second principle, in contrast, does not relate to the fire burning in the lamp, but rather to the object of the menora. The Acharonim have already established that, in addition to the fulfillment of lighting the lamps, the menora is also a fulfillment of the structure of the Temple. The idea itself was raised by Ibn Ezra in his commentary to Parashat Teruma[2] in the framework of his interpretation of the scriptural passage, and the issue was developed at length by the Acharonim who pointed out the many halakhic expressions that follow from it.[3]


            Let us now reexamine the meaning of the menora in each of the haftarot. There is something very strange in the haftara relating to Shelomo – muliple menorot: "And the candlesticks of pure gold, five on the right side, and five on the left, before the inner sanctuary." Not just one menora, but ten menorot in the sanctuary! Moreover, Chazal already disagreed about them (Menachot 99a), and according to one opinion the additional menorot were not even lit:


Our Rabbis taught: Shelomo made ten tables, but they arranged the showbread only on that of Moshe. As it is stated: "And the table of gold, on which the showbread was" (I Melakhim 7:48). Shelomo made ten menorot, but they lit only that of Moshe. As it is stated: "And the candlestick of gold with its lamps to burn every evening" (II Divrei ha-Yamim 13:11). Rabbi Elazar ben Shamu'a said: They arranged [the showbread] on all of them. As it is said: "And the tables upon which the showbread was set" (II Divrei ha-Yamim 4:19). And they lit all of them. As it is stated: "And the candlesticks with their lamps, that they should burn after the prescribed form before the inner sanctuary of pure gold" (II Divrei ha-Yamim 4:20).


            The conclusion that seems to follow is that the other menorot (and the other tables) served not to allow the fulfillment of the mitzva of lighting the lamps (or the mitzva of arranging the showbread), but rather the menorot were an integral part of the form and structure of the Temple. The author of the Mikdash David already put forward this argument:


The menora and the table are also part of the Temple, and when they are not in their [proper] places, all the service performed in the inner section of the Temple is disqualified, as is stated in the Yerushalmi, Shekalim (4:2). With this we can understand that which was said that Shelomo made ten menorot, but they lit only that of Moshe. And similarly ten tables, but they arranged [the showbread] only on that of Moshe. And even according to the one who says that they lit all of them and that they arranged [the showbread] on all of them, it means sometimes this one and sometimes that one, as Rashi, of blessed memory, has written. And each of them had the law of a table or a menora.


            What follows from this is that the primary significance of the menorot in the haftara of "the lamps of Shelomo" in the book of Melakhim is to be part of the form and structure of the Temple. In Zekharya, in contrast, it is the second element, i.e., the oil used for lighting, that is emphasized. He does indeed describe the golden menora, but its unique characteristic is the bowl upon the top of it and the olive trees that serve the bowl. As the commentators explain, this refers to a container of oil set above the menora and dripping into it. This is what stands at the heart of the prophecy, both in the section that is read as the haftara and in the continuation of the chapter in Zekharya that is found after the conclusion of the haftara. This menora corresponds to the Torah passages that emphasize the oil and the lighting as the focus of the menora, and not its being part of the Temple.


            These two aspects of the menora express different principles and present two different models for the days of Chanuka. The first emphasizes the Temple and its importance, and this is what finds expression in the haftara taken from Melakhim, whereas the second emphasizes the meeting between man and God wherever it takes place. As the Radak writes in his commentary on the menora of Zekharya, the idea of the menora is the renewal of the connection between God and man following the exile: "And He showed him this vision to inform him that God, blessed be he, will shine for Israel, the very opposite of the way that they were in darkness."


            Regarding Chanuka as well, we can point to two different focuses of the holiday.[4] The first is the dedication of the Temple and the resting of the Shekhina through the Temple, just as they celebrated the dedication of the Mishkan and the Temple in the days of Moshe, Shelomo, and Ezra.[5] On the other hand, it is possible to see the essence of Chanuka in the renewal of the covenant between Israel and God, and the creation of a connection between God and His people in the wake of the crisis of Hellenization. The streaming after Hellenistic civilization and seeing it as substituting for and replacing the Torah put the very covenant between God and Israel into danger. For the Sinaitic covenant was viewed by the Hellenizers as antiquated and irrelevant in light of the cultural and scientific achievements that had reached the peak of perfection and development in Greek culture, and therefore the Torah could be cancelled. The significance of Chanuka lies in the reconfirmation of the covenant and in the establishment of the Torah as obligating, meaningful and relevant, despite the cultural achievements and the challenge posed to the covenant. Just as in Shushan there was a renewal of the covenant, "and they received it again in the days of Achashverosh," so too in Modi'in there was a renewal of the covenant, "and they received it again in the days of Matityahu and Yehuda."[6]


            We see then that the haftara of Zekharya emphasizes the idea of the renewal of the covenant and the connection between Israel and God in the historical circumstances of the beginning of the Second Temple period, and therefore its reading emphasizes the idea of the covenant in Chanuka. The haftara of Shelomo, on the other hand, focuses on the Temple and its dedication, and its reading gives expression to this dimension of Chanuka. As we saw in the beginning of this shiur, the haftara of Zekharya is the main haftara for Chanuka, and this is because the renewal of the covenant lies at the very heart of the holiday. The dedication of the Temple is an important, but secondary component, and therefore, we read the haftara of "the lamps of Shelomo" when that is possible, but set it aside because of the haftara of "the lamps of Zekharya" when reading the two haftarot is impossible.


(Translated by David Strauss)


[1] The entire issue of the western lamp and the order of trimming the menora reflects this duality. See Rashi and Ramban, Shabbat 22b; Tamid 3:9 and 6:1; Yoma 33a; Responsa ha-Rashba, I, no. 79. This is not the forum to further expand on the matter.

[2] Shemot 25:22: "And the answer is by way of an analogy. For the Glory does not move, and therefore the Ark is in the form of a seat, and the menora and the table are set [before it]." See also Rambam, Sefer ha-Mitzvot, positive precept 20, and Ramban's stricture to positive precept 33.

[3] Mikdash David, no. 21, 3, s.v. u-le-ha-shitot; Bet Yishai, no. 123, 1; the comments of Masa Yad in the book Keneset ha-Rishonim al Menachot, no. 82 (Menachot 28b). And so too I heard in the name of Rav Yosef B. Soloveitchik.

[4] In fact, there are three focuses of the holiday, for there is also the miracle of the war and the rescue of Israel from the hands of the enemy that is expressed in the publicizing of the miracle.

[5] See Ramban, beginning of Parashat Beha'alotekha, who emphasizes this point.

[6] Owing to the framework in which this shiur is given, I am being concise in a place where there is room to discuss the matter at length. I have expanded on this issue, both the conceptual aspect as well as its halakhic expressions, in my article, "Ve-ha-Yamim ha-Ele Nizkarim ve-Na'asim – Pirsumei Nisa u-Berit be-Chanuka u-Purim," in Ketonet Yosef, New York, 2002, pp. 236-270. I would be happy to send an electronic copy to anyone who is interested.