This letter was addressed to R. Efraim Eliezer HaKohen Yallis, a leading Rabbi from Philadelphia.

B”H, the first day of Chanukah, 5707

Greetings and blessings,

I received your letter from Sunday, Parshas Vayeishev, at the appropriate time. Although I did not know what to decide concerning it, I, nevertheless, did as you asked.

To conclude with concepts relating to Chanukah: The Greeks championed the intellect, as known throughout the texts of history. Therefore they desired “to make them forget Your Torah,”1 [that the Jews lose consciousness] that the Torah is Yours, [connected to G‑d. The Greeks would have accepted the dimension of Torah that is logical, the qualities that human intellect could appreciate. In that context, our Sages] (Eruvin 100b) [teach:] “Had the Torah not been given, we would have learned....” But [they desired]: “to make them... violate the decrees of Your will.”2 [Hence their opposition was directed to] the chukim. Similarly, “they made all the oil impure.”3 For ritual impurity is also one of the Torah’s decrees which “are not concepts that could be appreciated by mortal intellect” (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, the conclusion of Hilchos Mikvaos).

They were able to make all the oil impure (i.e., [defiling] the intellect of holiness, the intellect of the Jewish people) because conduct governed by the intellect — even the intellect of holiness — allows for the possibility of error (and thus of sin). Moreover, afterwards, [one’s intellect] can cause him to err and [think] that he is carrying out what he was commanded, and [indeed,] that he is carrying out statutes and decrees that transcend intellect. As is well known, this was [King] Shaul’s sin. He took pity on [Amalek’s] choice flocks so that he could bring them as sacrifices to G‑d. [Afterwards,] he said: “I carried out G‑d’s word” (I Shmuel 15:13).

This is implied by the command to “render a genuinely truthful judgment regarding a dispute” (Megillah 15b). Tosafos states that this teaches that even though the witnesses deliver testimony, [a judge must thoroughly cross-examine the witnesses if he feels that deceit is involved]. Based on the above, [our Sages’] comment can be explained as follows: It is a decree of the King to accept the testimony of witnesses (Bava Basra 159a) and on the surface, there is no reason for [a judge] to suspect that there is any difficulty. [Hence, seemingly, he should accept the testimony as delivered.] In particular, this is true if we accept the theory that the testimony of witnesses is considered as a judgment; it is not merely the clarification of a matter. Thus [thejudge could say, the fact that a claim in a dispute looks suspicious] should not bother him; he is carrying out the Torah’s decrees. Nevertheless, he is required to investigate [the matter], for his mind is involved.4

On this basis, we can appreciate the connection of the concepts mentioned in Megillah (loc. cit.):[The verse promises that G‑d will] be “a crown” (referring to an encompassing light that transcends comprehension; see the precise use of the wording in Hilchos Teshuvah 8:2) to one who “considers himself as remnant,”5 “judges his natural inclination,” and “renders a genuinely truthful judgment regarding a dispute,” “overcomes his natural inclination,” and “shares the exchange of the give-and-take of the wars of Torah [debate].”

Therefore the war against the Greeks transcended the scope of reason (for it pitted “the weak against the mighty”)15 and it tapped [the Jews’] mesirus nefesh and their powerful will that transcended logic.

On this basis, [we can comprehend why for] seven days — the Seven Days of Creation — there was no [new] oil, but on the first day — [referring to] the power of will and mesirus nefesh that transcends distinction — they found oil. (This relates to the concept that the holiday of Shavuos is only one day, while the holidays of Pesach and Sukkos are seven days, [as explained in the Hosafos to Torah Or, the conclusion of Parshas Yisro.)

With wishes for all good and with Chanukah blessings,

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Chairman of the Executive Committee