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A Turn For The Worse

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 22/12/2019

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A Turn For The Worse

The Greeks didn’t want to kill us rather they wanted to take us away from Judaism. This is indicated in the letters of יון as each letter that follows is bigger than the previous, as it begins with a י, then a ו, and finally the ן since this is how one drifts away from Judaism. One who goes off the track of Judaism doesn’t do so in one shot rather in a series of events that make him drift further and further away. For example, one doesn’t start with eating a cheeseburger rather he first uses the bathroom in the non-Kosher restaurant. Then he may get soda. Later, he decides to buy a salad. Next, he is onto the French fries until he finally actually eats the cheeseburger.[1] In this light we can explain ופרצו חומות מגדלי וטמאו כל השמנים[2] as each breach leads eventually to a defiling of everything. Accordingly, the word יון means quicksand as in מטיט היון,[3] since it makes one descend lower and lower.


Now we can grasp on a deeper level why the Greeks prohibited the Mitzvos of מילה, שבת, ראש חודש[4] since these separate us from the non-Jews. ראש חודש was given to us so that we now rule over time as in מקדש ישראל והזמנים. Next is Shabbos in which the law is עכו"ם ששבת חייב מיתה,[5] a non-Jew who observes it, is liable to death. Last is מילה, which is what makes us distinct. 


This is why Chanuka contains these three. Since Chanuka is eight days, it contains at least one Shabbos. It also contains ראש חודש (טבת). Finally, the eight days hints to מילה which is performed on the eighth day.[6]

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] In this way we can grasp (Devarim 1:44) ויכתו אתכם בשעיר עד חרמה—if one moves away from Judaism only a hairsbreadth (שעיר), it could lead עד חרמה, complete removal of his Judaism.

[2] In יונים נקבצו עלי which we sing after lighting the Menora.

[3] Tehillim 40:3.

[4] The word חשמונאים is rooted in חשמן. This forms an acronym ofחודש, שבת, מילה, נר חנוכה since in addition to these three, we got נר חנוכה. Indeed, this is what Chanuka is—מוסיף והולך! 

[5] Sanhedrin 58b.

[6] Chida in Rosh Dovid, Miketz.

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