From Sukkot to Chanukah: Restoration of Spirit
BY RABBANIT SHANI TARAGIN
The choice of name for Israel’s current war, “Swords of Iron,” was selected to broadcast the IDF’s goal of eradicating the terrorist organization Hamas, whose emblem shows two crossed swords in front of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem framed by two Palestinian flags with the Islamic oath and creed, Shahada. I prefer, however, to call our current national operation “Mashiv HaRuach, Restoration of Spirit.” Instead of referring to the outbreak of the war on Simchat Torah, forever diminishing the joy of the day, “Mashiv HaRuach” alludes to the overlapping date of Shemini Atzeret in Eretz Yisrael, when we began adding “Mashiv HaRuach u’Morid HaGashem, Who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.” It reminds us of this war’s spiritual goal – to restore our national spirit of unity and security in our Divinely promised Land.
Not only do we add this phrase to our daily amidah in the blessing of “mechayeh haMeitim” (Hashem’s power to revive the dead) beginning on the eighth day following Sukkot, but it was also prophesied by the prophet Chaggai on the seventh day of Sukkot in 520 BCE, Hoshana Rabbah, the day before Shemini Atzeret when the war began:
“On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, Hashem’s word came through the prophet Chaggai: Speak to Zerubavel son of Shaltiel, the governor of Yehudah, and to the high priest Yehoshua son of Yehotzadak, and to the rest of the people: Who is there left among you who saw this House in its former splendor? How does it look to you now? It must seem like nothing to you. But be strong, O Zerubavel – says Hashem – be strong, O high priest Yehoshua son of Yehotzadak; be strong, all you people of the Land – says Hashem – and act! For I am with you – says Hashem of Hosts. So I promised you when you came out of Egypt, and My spirit (ruach) is still in your midst. Fear not!” (Chaggai 2:1–5).
Chaggai continued to encourage the leaders of the generation to wage war against Israel’s enemies to secure military and political success. On the 24th of Kislev 520 BCE, he assured them that with the foundation of the second Beit HaMikdash they would witness agricultural success, miraculous victories, and reestablishment of monarchy. He chose the winter solstice, the longest night of the year and the time of greatest darkness, to instill the nation with the hope of sovereignty and redemption.
Unfortunately, Zerubavel and his successors did not initiate any apocalyptic wars. Still, Chaggai’s prophecy echoed in the hearts and consciousness of the Hasmoneans, who in 168 BCE defeated the forces of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes and rededicated the altar of the Beit HaMikdash on the anniversary of Chaggai’s prophecy followed by eight days of celebration from the 25th of Kislev.
They chose to broadcast their miraculous victory specifically with the lighting of the menorah to highlight the restoration of the spirit of Hashem promised by both Chaggai and his contemporary, the prophet Zechariah: “I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl above it… This is the word of Hashem to Zerubavel: Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit (ruchi) – said Hashem of Hosts.”
This year, in the midst of war, as we light the menorah on the 25th of Kislev as an assurance and fulfillment of Hashem’s “ruach” in our midst, we are reminded of the restoration of spirit prophesied by another prophet, Yechezkel. A prophet in the Diaspora, Yechezkel sees a valley of dry bones, a people massacred and mutilated. Hashem implores:
“Prophesy to the breath (ruach), prophesy, O mortal! Say to the breath: Thus said the Sovereign G-d: Come, O breath, from the four winds, and breathe into these slain, that they may live again… You shall know, O My people, that I am G-d, when I have opened your graves and lifted you out of your graves. I will put My breath into you, and you shall live again, and I will set you upon your own soil“ (Yechezkel 37:9, 13–14).
The juxtaposed prophecy foretells the unity of the Jewish people – “I will make them a single nation in the land, on the hills of Israel, and one king shall be king of them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms” (37:22).
When the Chashmona’im rededicated the Mikdash with the ruach of the menorah, they celebrated for eight days with olive branches, as they could not celebrate Sukkot properly due to the defilement the mizbe’ach (Maccabim Bet 10:9). This Chanukah, may we merit to complete the joy of Sukkot and Simchat Torah as our national-religious spirit is restored!
Rabbanit Shani Taragin is Educational Director of Mizrachi and the Director of the Mizrachi-TVA Lapidot Educators’ Program.