The haftarah for the second Shabbat of Chanukah is about the vessels that King Solomon and Hiram made for the first Temple.1 All communities read this haftarah for the second Shabbat of Chanukah, but Ashkenazic communities also read this for Parashat Vayakhel and Sefardic communities also read this for Parashat Pekudei.2

The connection to Vayakhel and Pekudei is easy to understand, because they speak about the vessels that Betzalel and Oholiab made for the Tabernacle. But it's difficult to understand its connection to Chanukah.

The haftarah expresses the theme of the parshah3 or the holiday.4 Since everyone reads this on the second Shabbat of Chanukah, it means that it's more related to the theme of Chanukah. And being that it's read on the second Shabbat of Chanukah, it's proof that it's more related to Chanukah than the haftarah for the first Shabbat of Chanukah, because we have the rule on Chanukah that "We add in holiness,"5 meaning that the theme of Chanukah gets stronger and stronger as the holiday progresses and we light more and more candles. By explaining how it connects to Chanukah, we will get a deeper appreciation for Vayakhel and Pekudei.

It is difficult to understand how this haftarah connects to Chanukah, because it speaks about making the vessels of the first Temple. True it mentions the extra menorahs that Solomon made to accompany the menorah that Moses made for the Tabernacle, but that is only one verse at the end of the haftarah. And it only mentions that he made "five (to go) on the right and five (to go) on the left," and where they were to be placed. However it doesn't mention that they were brought into the Temple or that they were lit, which would make it more in line with the theme of Chanukah. There is even an opinion that the menorahs that Solomon made weren't lit at all.6 And even more, there are no other details.

When it comes to the haftarah for the first Shabbat of Chanukah,7 the prophecy of Zechariah about the menorah in the second Temple, it's a few verses and it gives details. It's a prophecy specifically about the menorah and the olive oil, in sync with the Chanukah theme. It turns out that the prophecy of Zechariah is also about the third Temple in the time of Moshiach.8

However our haftarah doesn't seem to have any connection with Chanukah.

The question gets stronger, when you consider that the verses following this haftarah speak about how they completed all the work, brought the vessels into the Temple and the Chanukat Beit Hamikdash, the dedication of the Temple, which would be right in line with the story of Chanukah (the rededication of the Temple in the second Temple era, in the time of the Hasmoneans). It's not like they had nothing else to use as the haftarah so that they had to use this.

Even more, according to the teaching that "we add in holiness,"9 mentioned above, it would make sense for the haftarah of the first Shabbat of Chanukah to be read on the second Shabbat, because it seems to have more to do with Chanukah.10

Nevertheless, the law is that we read this haftarah on the second Shabbat of Chanukah in every community, despite all the objections mentioned above. Therefore we must conclude that this haftarah brings out the theme of Chanukah even more than the haftarah for the first Shabbat of Chanukah. How does it do that?

And what important lesson are we meant to learn from this?

In order to understand this, we first need to understand what Chanukah is all about. It's about turning the darkness into light. First "the Greeks entered the sanctuary," and "they defiled all of the oil," that was the darkness getting stronger. Then the miracle happened, "They didn't find but one cruse of oil that had the seal of the Kohen Gadol, and it didn't have oil but for one day, and a miracle happened that they lit from it eight days."11

It's explained in Chassidic teachings that the miracle is from such a high level, at that level, the darkness doesn't darken, not only does the light brighten the darkness but the darkness itself shines.12

That is why they established that we commemorate this miracle with lighting candles, and "the mitzvah is from sunset, until the people finish coming from the market place... until the Tarmudai finish coming."13 Because the light of the Chanukah candles is about lighting up the darkest place, the market place, where the Tarmudai hang out. The Tarmudai were the lowest of people, they denied G‑d's existence.14

In our service to G‑d, it means that we brighten the darkness of the world with "The candle which is the mitzvah and the Torah which is the flame,"15 until we turn the Tarmudai of existence to light.

In order to understand further, we have to understand why G‑d created this world, and our purpose in the scheme of things.

The Midrash tells us and the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya that the reason that G‑d created this world is because "the Blessed One Be He had a desire that we make Him a home in the lowest realms,"16 which is this lowly physical world.

We do this by the study of Torah, the performance of mitzvahs, and by making every aspect of our lives for G‑d.

The whole of existence including all of the higher realms, and all the spiritual worlds were created just so we can fulfill our purpose. The same is with our holidays, they are meant to help us with making a home for G‑d, every holiday brings out and accomplishes a different aspect of this, and they are meant to give us the strength to accomplish it throughout the year.

Chanukah also brings out this idea. Chanukah is about transforming darkness into light, to transform the Tarmudai, the opposing forces to G‑d, in this lowly physical world, of which there is no lower.

When it comes to making this world into a home for G‑d, there are two parts that seem to be equal. First there is making vessels to receive G‑dliness, then there is filling those vessels with G‑dliness.

For example, there is turning a horn into a shofar and then there is using it on Rosh Hashanah for the mitzvah of shofar. There is making the parchment and the ink and then there is writing the mezuzah and affixing it to your doorpost.

But in truth they are not equal, because making a vessel is much more difficult than filling the vessels with G‑dliness. Especially when it comes to things or people who are indifferent or opposed to G‑dliness. The hardest part is getting them to be open to G‑dliness, once they are open to G‑dliness, doing a mitzvah with them or filling them with G‑dliness is easier to do. To make a vessel, you have to break the resistance of the negative forces, and that is the hardest part.

Especially because this lowly physical world was created to cover and hide G‑dliness.17 Even more, this world is full of darkness and negative forces that fight the work of making this world into a home for G‑d, making it even harder to make vessels.18

And this is brought out by the haftarah, because it speaks about making the vessels, not using them, not even bringing them into the Temple.19 And the haftarah is telling us that this is the essence of Chanukah, because in order to turn darkness into light, the main thing is to make the vessels.

Vayakhel and Pekudei speak about making the vessels of the Tabernacle and the Tabernacle itself, which was meant to be a home for G‑d. And the haftarah is stressing that the main thing is making the vessels, not using them.

Of course using them is important, but it's the easier part, and therefore less significant.

Once the effort is put in to break through the darkness and make the vessels, then they can be used for their intended purpose, to be filled with G‑dliness.

And this is seen in the miracle of Chanukah, first they had to find the cruse of oil with the seal of the Kohen Gadol, which is the vessel, and only then could they have the miracle of the oil burning for eight days.

The haftarah brings this out in several ways.

The first word of the haftarah, Vayaas, means “and he made”, stressing the point that the main work to make a home for G‑d, is action, making the vessels.

Why is action most important to make a home for G‑d? Because action is the lowest ability of a person. Even an animal has the ability to do action. Being that this lowly physical realm, is the world of action, it takes action to make a home for G‑d, making vessels for G‑dliness.

The second word is Hiram, Hiram's mother was from the tribe of Dan,20 the lowest tribe.21 And the haftarah tells us that he made them out of copper, the lowest metal used in the Temple.22

It was through action, Hiram and copper, the lowest, of which the vessels were made for the home for G‑d, the Temple.

And then it says, "And Solomon made all the vessels," referring to the gold vessels. Because even the king of all of Israel, Solomon, who was from the tribe of Yehuda, the greatest of all the tribes, had to be involved in making vessels. To teach us that no one is exempt from doing the work of making vessels for the light of G‑d.

The same is true about the vessels of the Tabernacle, mentioned in Vayakhel and Pekudei. They were made by Betzalel, who was from the tribe of Yehuda, the greatest of all the tribes, and Oholiab, who was from the tribe of Dan, the lowest.23 From the highest to the lowest, everyone should be involved in making vessels for G‑d.

The lesson we are meant to learn from this, is that we all have to make an effort to make a vessel out of a Jew who perhaps is not a vessel yet, because the darkness of the world is covering his or her24 soul. And the main thing is to make them into vessels, to be receptive to G‑d, His Torah and Judaism.

Sure we want our brothers and sisters to study Torah and do mitzvahs, but that is the easier part, the hardest and most important part is making the vessels. After that the rest is a lot easier.

What does it take to make a vessel? It's done by saying, good morning, good Shabbat and by being accepting of them. By being friendly, loving and caring, you tear down the walls of division and open their hearts and minds to hear and be receptive to G‑d and Torah.

Once they are open to G‑d and Torah, they will want to learn more. However if they don't become a vessel, if they are not receptive, they have no chance for anything else.

Recently in Israel there has been an amazing togetherness between Jewish people from all walks of life. And because of this, so many people are open to G‑d, His Torah and Judaism. It's truly a blessing. Those who are not open to accepting Jewish people who are less observant than them, have no part in this and they should rethink their mode of service to G‑d, because it's not Jewish to be unaccepting of their brothers and sisters. And it's possible that they are pushing them further away from G‑d.

May we merit to see how it was our effort to make vessels that brought us the coming of Moshiach. The time has come. 25