After wiping out the city of Shechem Yaakov Avinu tells him family members הסירו אלהי נכר מקרבכם remove the strange deities from within your midst as we are going to Bais Ail. Can it be that the Holy Shevatim possessed idols from the spoils of Shechem which they kept amongst their belongings and Yaakov was now reprimanding them for such a blasphemous conduct?
The Ibn Ezra writes חלילה וחלילה Heaven forbid such a thought. The true story is that even though the objects that were in their possessions were not at all idols or anything close to that description, Yaakov was teaching them a lesson in geographic and time zone upgrades. For instance, during the Aseres Yemai Teshuva the halacha dictates that even though during the year one eats Pas Paltar kosher gentile bread from a bakery, during this time zone one should be makpid to eat only Pas Yisrael baked by a Yid. That is to say that one is expected during this period to upgrade his level of kashrus since the presence of Hashem is more dominant and it is a serious time in which our lives are being judged. In a way, it is not just a mere expectation but it is Hashem’s presence that demands the upgrade. My Rebbi, Rav Shlomo Freifeld ztl would say over and over again that the word כבוד stems from the word כבד which means heavy. When a spiritual heavyweight comes into our presence it demands a display of heavier kovod, for example to stand up for him as he enters the room.
The greater amount of degree of spiritual sensitivity an individual has acquired, the more he will feel the demand for giving kovod to a Gadol even when not being in his visual presence. When Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl came to Menachem Avel the Rebbezin of Rav Yonasan Shteif ztl, she remarked Now I finally get to see the face of the person who my husband would always run to put on his hat and kapata when he would speak with you over the telephone.
A Bais Hakenesses is a place which demands greater respect and decorum than one’s living room since Hashem’s presence is there together with Sifrei Torah. The Tosfos Yom Tov writes that the pogroms of Tach and Tat befell Klal YIsrael because of the talking in shul.
The Navi says that our speech on Shabbos should take on a different character than our speech during the week. The Panim Yafos asks that the Navi cannot be remarking about forbidden or idle speech since this is forbidden even during the week. The Navi is rather demanding from us that on Shabbos even our holy speech should be upgraded to a higher level. For instance the first three berachos of Shemoneh Esrai, our Keriyas Shma, our Birkas Hamazon should be said with more kavvanah and less rushed because of the special day of Shabbos and our gift of receiving a neshama yesairah.
Let us take a Yartzeit for instance. Every year on the anniversary of the day of death ,the neshamah is once again judged. All his influences that he accomplished during his lifetime, support of Torah institutions, kiruv, chesed, children and grandchildren etc. that continue to live a life of Torah because of his chinuch, are new pluses for his neshamah to be raised to another level of Gan Eden. Therefore on the day of the Yartzeit the children say Kaddish, they learn Torah for the merit of the niftar, berachos are made in honor of the neshamah, tzedakah is given, some have the minhag that the children fast, all with the recital that the neshama should have an aliya. This means that through these merits we daven that the neshamah should merit the next level of Gan Eden. This new judgment also includes the examinations of subtle shortcomings that were overlooked in the lower Gan Eden. However, now that we want to elevate the neshama to a higher level closer to Hashem, these subtle shortcomings must be reevaluated and come under a closer scrutiny, for in a greater presence of Hashem the once unnoticeable becomes noticeable.
Yaakov was teaching his family that a conduct of anti chesed in Chutz Laaretz is not the same as in Eretz Yisrael. That is why we find that the city of Sodom was destroyed even though there were similar cultures in Chutz Laaretz. The conduct outside of Yerushalayimis not as demanding as Yerushalayim. Yerushalayim is not as demanding as the locality of the Bais Hamikdash. The purity of a Kohen is more demanding from that of a Yisrael. A Talmid Chacham not repaying his loan before the required time is deemed a Chillul Hashem but not so with a commoner. So too explains the Ibn Ezrah. Yaakov was applying this concept with things and objects that are not considered alien to Torah and Yiddishkeitoutside of Bais Ail, but are considered אלהי נכר , that they are tantamount to alien deities in Bais Ail. So please remove them from your midst.
This same idea becomes a reality to everyone on Chanukah during the lighting of the Menorah. The Shemon Rosh writes that Chazal say (Shabbos 23) that if one sees the Ner Chanukah of another Yid he should say the beracha of She’asah Nissim. `This particular conduct is only found by the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah and not by Megillah etc. He explains this uniqueness with the halacha (Orach Chaim 218,1) that if that if one sees a place that a miracle happened to our forefathers he should recite the beracha of She’asah Nissim לאבותינו במקום הזה. How then are we to understand the recital of Sheasah Nissimwhen seeing someone else’s lit Menorah? It isn’t the place where a miracle happened to our forefathers? From here we clearly see that our Chachamim understood that where ever one lights the Menorah it has the ability to draw to that place the kedusha of the Bais Hamikdash and its Menorah, which is the same place that the miracle of Chanukah occurred to our forefathers. The halachah is that one doesn’t have to be a Kohen to light the Menorah in the Bais Hamikdash for even a Yisrael can fulfill the mitzvah. Lighting the Chanukah lights is as if we are standing in the Bais Hamikdash and lighting the Menorah. The mitzvah of נר איש וביתו alludes to the lighting of the light in ביתו which refers to the בית המקדש which by lighting infuses his house with the kedusha of the Bayis.
As we mentioned above, an upgrade to a holier environment demands a holier devotion and concentration. When lighting the Chanukah Licht let us be cognizant that we are bringing the kedushas Bais Hamikdash into our homes for all our members to benefit from together with the shefah of love, emunah, yirah, and simcha that one derives from being there in the presence of Hashem.
Rav Shmuel Brazil