Chanukah: Chinuch and Chanukah, Walking with Hashem ~ Tzvi Abrahams
Chinuch and Chanukah, Walking with Hashem
וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָם כִּי נִשְׁבָּה אָחִיו וַיָּרֶק אֶת חֲנִיכָיו יְלִידֵי בֵיתוֹ שְׁמֹנָה עָשָׂר וּשְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת וַיִּרְדֹּף עַד דָּן
And Avraham heard that his brother (Lot) had been captured. And he armed his חֲנִיכָיו, those who were born to his house, three hundred and eighteen, and they gave pursuit until Dan.1
Rashi interprets the word חֲנִיכָיו as Eliezer, who was chancho l’mitzvos/educated in mitzvos. Rashi defines the word chinuch as “beginning.” The number 318 stands for Eliezer alone, whose name has the same gematria.2 The Kli Yakar says that to rescue Lot and overcome the four kings with so few as 318 men was an impossible task. By natural means, there was no way to be victorious over an enemy that far outnumbered them. Nevertheless, Avraham went out knowing that he could rely on Hashem’s help. So what is the significance of the number 318? As we showed above that 318 was in fact Eliezer, victory came through “Eliezer,” as Rashi says, which really means that Hashem himself did it, since eliezer in Hebrew literally means “with the help of Hashem.”
So too the victory over the Greeks at the time of the Chanukah miracle was a victory against all odds. Victory only comes about with Hashem’s help. The war against the Greeks was a physical war, yet the primary war was a spiritual one. We had to do battle with our yetzer hara to overcome the enticing Greek philosophy and their Hellenistic culture. The Gemara in Kiddushin teaches that without Hashem’s help we cannot possibly overcome the yetzer hara.3
Chanoch is the first one in an illustrious line of great people who walked with Hashem. So why is he called חַנוֹךְ? Because the Torah is telling us that the way Hashem wants us to מְחַנֵךְ/educate our children is in the ways of “walking through life” with Hashem.
חֲנֹךְ לַנַּעַר עַל פִּי דַרְכּוֹ/educate the child according to his way.4The Ibn Ezra connects this to the pasuk brought above, where Avraham arms the men of his house, known as חֲנִיכָיו, with weapons of war. Here too the Torah is teaching that the way to educate your child is to arm him with the weapons of war that are best suited for him. The war is the war of the Torah. The fight to learn the Torah is by no means easy; a kid who is completely dominated by the yetzer hara just wants to have fun. As parents and guardians, we have the great responsibility to equip our children with the right tools for them to conquer their yetzer and educate them in the ways of Hashem.
Chanukas HaMizbei’ach and chanukas habayis both refer to the inauguration ceremony, the first-time use of the Mizbei’ach and one’s house, respectively.
When we make a chanukas habayis, we have to clarify what it is that we are dedicating our house to. Will our chanukas indeed stem from lashon chinuch, i.e., that our home will be a place of Torah ideals, cultivating growth, and closeness to Hashem? In Tehillim30,מִזְמוֹר שִׁיר חֲנֻכַּת הַבַּיִת לְדָוִד, the bayis referred to therein is the Beis HaMikdash. Our house should be like a Beis HaMikdash, a place of refuge from the street, in which the light shines from the house into the street and not the other way around. We say this everyday on Chanukah because ה’ הֱיֵה עֹזֵר לִי, with Hashem’s help we are able to conquer our enemy the yetzer hara, and in doing so, each one of us becomes a mini Beis HaMikdash, where Hashem’s Shechinah can reside. For this, we forever thank you, ה’ אֱ-לֹהַי לְעוֹלָם אוֹדֶךָּ.
The festival of Chanukah centers on the rededication of the Beis HaMikdash after it was defiled by the Greeks. The Menorah in the Temple represented the spiritual wealth and light that comes from a life immersed in Torah. Every year, Chanukah sheds renewed light in the darkest days of winter and symbolizes a rededication to a life of Torah. Only through educating ourselves with Torah do we reach our goal of walking with Hashem.
אֶתְהַלֵּךְ לִפְנֵי ה’בְּאַרְצוֹת הַחַיִּים/I will walk with Hashem in the land of the living.5Only when I walk with Hashem am I truly living.