Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Restoring the Altar on Chanukah

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, once explained the the custom in Israel to eat doughnuts on Chanukah is based on a statement of our sages. “We find that when the Chashmonaim rededicated the beis hamikdash, they found stones of the altar which the Greeks had defiled and were unsure how to purify them. So they were forced to hide the stones away.
“Unlike latkes, doughnuts require an על המחיה. This is preferable, since it includes a prayer that Hashem restore his altar. Each Chanukah we beseech Hashem to rectify the damage done specifically to the altar by the Greeks before they were defeated.
“As far as why we pray about the altar specifically in the brochah mei’ein shalosh, Rav Moshe Leib Shachor, zt”l, explained that this is based on the Mishnah in the end of Sotah. There we find that when the sanctuary was destroyed the taste was taken away from produce. It follows that the blessing on the seven species specifically contains a request to restore the mikdash so that the proper taste will also return to the fruits of the land.”
The Ramah MiPano, zt”l, learns a very powerful lesson from the continuation of the same gemara. “We see in Avodah Zarah that the pritzim came and profaned the sanctuary, literally made it חול. This teaches that even when the non-Jews come to destroy the mikdash, the holiness retreats and ascends on high. It follows that those who hate us do not have any mastery over the essence of the beis hamikdash.”
The Komarna Rebbe expands on this same theme. “This explains why we do not fast on the tenth of Av when the beis hamikdash was actually burned. Once the non-Jews set fire to the structure and the holiness ascended, the main mourning is already finished, since what they actually burned was merely the physical shell. The true tragedy was that the holiness ascended, which allowed the non-Jews to physically burn what remained.”