The conflict between the Greeks and the Jews at the time of the Chanukah miracle was not merely a political or military conflict. It was a clash of civilizations in which two world-views were at odds. For the Greeks built their empire by spreading their culture. They hoped that the people they conquered would realize the advantages of the Greek way of life and adopt it as their own.

When the Greeks entered Eretz Yisrael, they were impressed with the wisdom of the Torah and the thoughtfulness its study had cultivated within the Jewish people. And yet, a conflict was soon to arise. For the Greeks saw wisdom as the apex of human experience, the highest rung that man can reach. Judaism, by contrast, sees wisdom as secondary, a medium to be shaped by G‑dliness which transcends logic and reason.

The Greeks would have liked the Jewish people to study Torah in the same way that they studied human wisdom: insensitive to its inner G‑dly core. As implied by the prayer beginning VeAl HaNissim, they endeavored to force the Jews to “forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will” — i.e., to forget that the Torah is connected to G‑d.

In Step With The Cosmic Rhythm

Against the backdrop of the above concepts, the Alter Rebbe’s focus in the following maamar is on relating to the Torah’s inner G‑dly core. He begins by explaining that there are two motifs governing creation: G‑d’s will and His speech. For G‑d created the world through speech, bringing its material existence into being. There is, however, a higher pattern which brings about the form and nature of every created being. This pattern emanates from G‑d’s will, transcendent G‑dliness that is not bound by the limits of our material existence.

A person who is aware of the above will naturally desire to align himself with G‑d’s will and seek to take an active role in the mission G‑d has entrusted to man: to transform the darkness of material existence to light.

Kindling Light

Man is not compelled to carry out this mission based on his own spiritual power alone. Instead, G‑d has granted him tools that facilitate this purpose, as indicated by the phrase:1 “A mitzvah is a candle, and the Torah, light.” Through “the candle of mitzvah,” man elevates the articles with which the mitzvos are performed, and, in a larger sense, the totality of material existence. And through “the light of the Torah,” he draws down G‑dly influence from Above to illuminate this realm. More particularly, “the candle of mitzvah” creates a setting for “the light of the Torah” to be revealed.

The mitzvos have the power to accomplish this because they are rooted in the Torah’s inner G‑dly core. For, as mentioned above, the Torah is not merely wisdom. Instead, it is fundamentally G‑dliness. Its intellectual dimension is merely a garment that enables man to relate to it. For that reason, the Torah is described as “the primeval analogy.” For just as an analogy makes it possible for a person to comprehend the analogue, so too, the Torah enables us to grasp the “analogue,” G‑d’s infinite light. This approach reflects the core of the conflict with the Greeks and the key to the Jews’ success.

The Chanukah miracle is not past history. When we tap into the Torah’s essential G‑dly core, light is generated, illuminating the world. Moreover, this light, like its source, is unbounded. This is the purpose of the Chanukah lights: to enable G‑dly light to permeate every corner of existence, even “the public domain,” i.e., a sphere that sees itself as outside the realm of holiness. This maamar is from Torah Or and, like most of the maamarim of that text, the Tzemach Tzedek prepared it for printing without adding any of his own notes. Therefore, there are no endnotes to this maamar.