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זאת חנוכה

Three different people wished me a "Happy Zos Chanuka" today, so I thought it was significant enough to find a few links that talk about what that means and include a post here for Chanuka before the holiday ends.

OU.com explains:

The "simple" explanation for this special name for the last day of Chanuka is the Torah reading from the end of Parshat Naso that emphatically announces ZOT CHANUKAT HA-MIZBEI'ACH (when the Torah is summing up the gifts of all the Tribal Leaders.

There is another, deeper meaning to the name. If you want to really know what Chanuka is all about, the answer is THIS, THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHANUKA - the fact that there are 8 days of Chanuka - ZOT CHANUKA, this is what Chanuka means. It means EIGHT. EIGHT is our answer to the Greek challenge. They said nature is perfect. They said it is a mutilation of the body to be circumcised. And they forbid us to fulfill that great mitzva of ours, under pain of death. EIGHT represents the step beyond TEVA, beyond nature. MILA on the 8th day represents our challenge to go beyond how we were created and take charge of the completion of our physical and spiritual form. The Mikdash began to function on its higher spiritual level on the EIGHTH day. The Greeks tried to take that away from us too. Torah was given to us on the day following seven sevens. It is an EIGHTH too. And the Greeks tried to take that from us also. With G-d's help, we prevailed over the Greeks and the triumph is celebrated with an 8 day holiday. This is Chanuka. ZOT CHANUKA.

We discussed this idea previously, and Rabbi Avi Shafran writes more on this here.

The Sfas Emes blog has an explanation of the hidden meaning of the word Zos.
The word zos/this, is laden with symbolism. In the Zohar we find the word zos alluding to Jerusalem and the kingdom of Heaven. The Midrash says that the word zos/this in the pasuk, “... בְּזֹאת אֲנִי בוֹטֵחַ/… in this I trust,” (Tehillim 27:1) is an allusion to God – in God I trust.

The early kabbalists teach that zos alludes specifically to that point of spirituality through which God gives existence to the physical. David HaMelech as well, asked God to preserve this recognition of His presence within us, “... שָׁמְרָה־זֹּאת לְעוֹלָם לְיֵצֶר מַחְשְׁבוֹת לְבַב עַמֶּךָ .../… Preserve this forever – the product of the thoughts of Your people’s hearts …” (Divrei HaYamim 1 29:18)

Zos, then, is a reference to the Godliness hidden within us and all of Creation. Knowing that everything, including God’s obscurity is powered by this point of God given spirituality, essentially, knowing that God is “in” everything and that everything is therefore “good” is a tremendous tool for strengthening one’s faith particularly in times of exile. This, in fact, is the fundamental meaning of the pasuk in Eicha (3:21), “זֹאת אָשִׁיב אֶל־לִבִּי עַל־כֵּן אוֹחִיל/This I will bear in mind; therefore I have hope.” The prophet is teaching us that when we bear in mind zos – that the exile as well is from God and that He is present even in the darkness of it – we have good reason for hope.

This concept is the lesson of Chanukah. The salvation came when the nation realized that God was with them in the darkness as well. We find this idea as well in the following pesukim from Tehillim (112:7-8), “מִשְּׁמוּעָה רָעָה לֹא יִירָא נָכוֹן לִבּוֹ בָּטֻחַ בַּה': סָמוּךְ לִבּוֹ לֹא יִירָא עַד אֲשֶׁר־יִרְאֶה בְצָרָיו/He will have no fear of evil tidings; his heart is firm, confident in God. His heart is steadfast, he shall not fear, he will even [expect to] see [vengeance upon] his tormentors.” When a person trusts in God, he knows that salvation is at hand. The Chiddushei HaRim points out that, significantly, the last letters of the words, “נָכוֹן לִבּוֹ בָּטֻחַ בַּה׳ סָמוּךְ/his heart is firm, confident in God, steadfast” spells out חֲנוּכָּה/Chanukah. [ed: see my comment here]

The chapter in Tehillim that we say on Chanukah bears out this idea. “הָפַכְתָּ מִסְפְּדִי לְמָחוֹל לִי פִּתַּחְתָּ שַׂקִּי וַתְּאַזְּרֵנִי שִׂמְחָה/You have transformed my lament into dancing for me; You undid my sackcloth and girded me with happiness.” (Tehillim 30:12) The word for transformed – הָפַכְתָּ – also means to overturn or to turn inside out. The difference between lament and dancing is whether God is hidden or revealed. Dancing is lament turned inside out, as it were. The important point is that God is present in both. The Midrash on the curses in parshas BeChukosai makes this point when it says that the difference between the blessings and the curses is that the blessings are in the order of the Hebrew alphabet whereas the curses are backwards.

The second half of the pasuk continues this idea. It is important to understand that the sackcloth, a clear reference to exile and God’s concealment is only a cover. When the sackcloth is undone, when the concealment is removed, God is revealed in the form of salvation and closeness to Him. Then we are girded with happiness. This is the meaning of Chanukah, the days of miracles, when the nation of Israel was at a very low point and God helped us. It is encouraging to know that according to the extent of concealment so is the extent of the good since everything is from God and everything is for good. And according to our recognition of this fact and our trust in God so the underlying good will be revealed and we will merit salvation.



Another article on OU draws parallels with Sukkot:
Many parallels exist between the holidays of Chanuka and Sukkot. The basic parallel is that both are holidays of eight days, but the likeness runs much deeper.

According to one early source, the holiday itself was modeled on Sukkot. At Sukkot the soldiers were in the field and were unable to observe the holiday; when they conquered and purified the sanctuary they observed a new holiday, which was like a second Sukkot. (Maccabees II:10:6, mentioned in Arukh HaShulchan 670:5.)

Beit Shammai draw a significant halakhic parallel, explaining that the number of lights diminishes one each night, from eight to one, on the analogy of the bulls sacrificed at Sukkot, whose number diminishes from thirteen on the first day to seven on the last. (Shabbat 21b. Beit Hillel do not necessarily dispute the analogy to Sukkot, only the likeness of the lights to the bulls.)

The Mishna indicates that Bikurim (first fruits) can be brought until Chanuka; one understanding is that this is the very end of the olive harvest, which begins around Sukkot. (Bikkurim 1:6.) This suggests that Chanuka and Sukkot have a reciprocal relationship similar to that of Pesach and Shavuot, which correspond roughly to the beginning and end of the barley harvest. The Midrash states that the offerings of Kayin and Hevel were either at Chanuka or Shavuot, implying a similar relationship. (Bereshit Rabba on 4:3.)

The Sefat Emet writes that the likeness to Sukkot is the basis for another unique halakhic aspect of Chanuka: the existence of a distinct "mehadrin" (beautified) level of observance. We strive to beautify all mitzvot, but generally this augmentation is merely quantitative and doesn't involve a distinct way of fulfilling the mitzva. But on Chanuka, "hidur" means that we add one light each night. This reminds us of Sukkot, where the quality of "hadar" or beauty is not just an advantage in the commandment of the four species but is actually an inherent aspect of the mitzva. (Sefat Emet 5640, citing Rav Yaakov Meir of Gur. "Hadar" in four species: see Mishnah Berurah 645.)

According to this analogy, we can see the last day of Chanuka as a likeness of Shemini Atzeret, a distinct holiday that comes at the close of Sukkot.


This Chabad magazine article talks about why we follow Beit Hillel's view over that of Beit Shammai, especially in regard to Chanuka.

Revach extends the parallel of Zot Chanuka and Shemini Atzeret:
The seforim bring that the eighth day of Chanuka, known as Zos Chanuka, named after the Krias HaTorah of that day, is a very significant day. There are four periods of teshuva that are tied in with Rosh HaShana, three of which are very well known, Zos Chanuka is the fourth. The “Yimei Harachamim” begin with the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Chodesh Elul, calling to each of us to begin our teshuva process. The Gemara tells us that on Rosh Hashana, the tzadikim gemurim, completely righteous individuals, are immediately signed and sealed for a good year. This is the first period of judgment. Ten days later, on Yom Kippur, marks the second period of judgment, one that applies for most of us and after the completely righteous. For the stragglers, the grace period is extended and a third period of judgment culminates on Shmini Atzeres. Then, much after the others, comes the fourth period – Zos Chanuka.

These the respective periods of teshuva, works out to 30 days, 40 days, 52 days and 122 days from Rosh Chodesh Ellul. These four periods are hinted to in the amount of pasukim in the last few parshiyos of the Torah. The 40-day period, reserved for the majority of us, is hinted to in Parshas Netzavim, which has a total of 40 pasukim and speaks about how all of Klal Yisroel stands before Hashem in judgment. The 30-day period, reserved for tzadikim, is hinted to in the number of pasukim in Parshas Vayeilech, which begins with how the tzadik Moshe spent his final days inspiring the yidden to teshuva. The 52-day period is hinted to in Parshas Ha’azinu, as Moshe continues his message of teshuva. Finally, our fourth period, the 122-day program, culminating with Zos Chanuka, is hinted to in the amount of pasukim in Parshas Ki Savo, as a baal teshuva finishes their return to a new destination as a new person.

May all our prayers be accepted at this auspicious time.

Posted by joem on Dec 29, 2008 9:00 am

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