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Next week, we are going to fast on Erev Shabbat the unique fast of Assarah Betevet. It is the only time that we fast on Friday, on Erev Shabbat, for something that happened in the past.  This fast commemorates the beginning of the Destruction of the First Temple, the day when the Babylonian enemy surrounded Yerushalayim, and after two-and-a-half years, they broke through the walls. This fast is בעצם היום הזה, a fast that cannot be pushed off, even if the fast falls out on Shabbat. Why?

The Hatam Sofer says that although one is allowed to fast on Shabbat only for things of the future, like Yom Kippur at the beginning of the New Year, or a fast for a bad dream, something that someone is worried about, Assarah Batevet is different. It is not only that we fast about something that happened in the past. On Assarah Betevet, we are being judged, if the third Bet Hamikdash will be rebuilt this year or not!

Assarah Batevet is perfectly situated immediately after Hannukah. Hanuka is a holiday on which each person is to make his house into a Beit Hamikdash. It is a holiday on which we are all Kohanim Gedolim, lighting up the spirituality in our families. This is because a Jew without a Bet Hamikdash is not a complete Jew, at his core. The choice of lighting the Menorah as the part of the Temple Services through which we make our home into a Bet Mikdash is found in the Torah: it is the appointing the candle lighting of the Menorah to Aharon that appeased him, and not the sacrifices of the Nessiim we read throughout. Because the candle lighting of the Menorah is a sort of payback of gratitude, lighting up the Mishkan for G-d, Who does not need our light; it is an expression of appreciation to G-d for having lit up the way for us in the desert for 40 years. The whole Menorah lighting, at its core, is not a sacrifice as much as it is an expression of our indebtedness to G-d.

There is no mitzvah on Hanuka to make a Hanuka party like there is to make a Purim feast. This is because on Purim, the enemy was out to hurt our bodies as well as our spirit. On Hanuka, the enemy was out to extinguish our spirituality. The Jews were punished on Purim by having their lives at risk, because they allowed themselves to enjoy the Seudah of Ahashverosh. What, then, were the Jews in the times of Greeks guilty of, that the services of the Temple were taken away from them, and their spirituality was threatened?

The answer is that they were lacking in their Spiritual drive, in their care for the Bet Hamikdash and their Temple Services! So, after their victory, although they were exempt from using pure, uncontaminated olive oil, they made the extra effort to obtain it, because they wanted to correct what they had done wrong; they wanted to replace what they had lacked in their services! And that is why it makes so much sense that Hanuka is the perfect holiday to precede the judgement of Assarah Betevet, to determine whether or not we will merit the building of the Bet Hamikdash this year!!!

So, what does this all mean? How do I build a Mishkan in my heart and light inside it a Ner Tamid, and bring my soul as a Korban on its Mizbeach? This sounds like the song of Bilbavi Mishkan Evneh. But it is much more than just a song! Every day, three times a day, at the apex of our requests in Shemoneh Esreh, before thanking G-d for what He gave us, we say the Retzeh prayer, a prayer that the services come back to G-d’s Bet Hamikdash. In it, we mention something so interesting: והשב את העבודה לדביר ביתך . ואשי ישראל . ותפילתם מהרה באהבה תקבל ברצון . There are two ways to read these words and the meaning they have. Either, we are asking that the Fires of Yisrael should be brought back to the Bet Hamikdash, or, the words ואשי ישראל  belong to and refer to the following words: that G-d should accept the Jewish Fire offerings, along with their prayers. It all depends where you put the words – the beginning of the sentence or the end of the sentence, something that is a discussion in Halacha. (Tosafot Menahot 110a; O”H 102) What does that even mean, that there are fires of sacrifices of Yisrael, even in times when there is no Bet Hamikdash?  The answer is something unbelievable! Michael, the Angel, is a Kohen Gadol in the Temple in Yerushalayim in the sky, and he brings on the Mizbeach the souls of the Tzaddikim!

We know that every Hebrew word that ends with -ayim, instead of -im, is not just a plural masculine noun, but a plural that works in sync. For example: Sussim, Hamorim, Sefarim, are horses, donkeys, and books. While Enayim, Sefatayim, Shinayim, Raglayim, Yadayim, Nehirayim, Ofanayim, etc., are all plurals that reflect duality: Eyes, lips, teeth, feet, hands, nostrils, bicycle (two wheels), are all things that work in sync. Why, then, is Yerushalayim, also, plural, but -ayim? Because Yerushalayim is not just any other city. It is יְרוּשָׁלִַ֥ם הַבְּנוּיָ֑ה כְּ֝עִ֗יר שֶׁחֻבְּרָה־לָּ֥הּ יַחְדָּֽו  , a city that is connected to Yerushalayim in the sky! And the two Yerushalayims are in sync, the one above paired with Yerushalayim here, down below! Whatever we do down here, we can be bringing korbanot with our Messirut Nefesh that Michael Kohen Gadol will bring for us, on the Mizbeach up there! Those are the fires of our souls, and with those fires, we “burnt” physical and material desires for the sake of something more heavenly and more spiritual! You might feel, sometimes, that the good deeds you’ve done have gone unnoticed, and have not gone anywhere. But NO! Michael, the Kohen Gadol, has sacrificed them on the Mizbeach in Yerushalayim, upstairs!!!!!

The Messilat Yesharim tells us the secret recipe to bring the best sacrifices: ואמנם כבר ידעת, שהנרצה יותר בעבודת הבורא, יתברך שמו, הוא חפץ הלב ותשוקת הנשמה You should know, that the most accepted by G-d, more than all the service of G-d, is the desire of the heart, and the yearning of the soul!!!  (Chapter 7) G-d and Yitzhak had no more blessings for Esav after Yaakov took them all. But Esav cried; he wanted a blessing so badly that G-d made a special blessing, just because of Esav’s desire in his heart, a yearning in his soul!!!  Why do we think that if we pray for serving G-d a little more, if we pray to appreciate Him a little more, if we beg Him for another Bet Hamikdash, that G-d can’t turn over the Heavens for us, if He did it for Esav!?!?

יָפָ֨ה אַ֤תְּ רַעְיָתִי֙ כְּתִרְצָ֔ה נָאוָ֖ה כִּירוּשָׁלִָ֑ם: You are beautiful, My beloved, when you desire a connection, when you yearn, you are beautiful like Jerusalem! G-d wants us to want! That is all He wants from us! Of course, the Yetzer Hara is going to do everything to break our spirit! He is going to make us sin and sin again and again, so that we wonder if we really want! But we can’t stop wanting to get close to G-d, no matter how low we have fallen! Because those wants, those desires to keep serving G-d are our sacrifices, the ones that Michael offers for us in Yerushalayim shel Ma’alah!

This is the meaning behind the Hasidic story/parable: There was a man who had no money to support his wife and kids, so he made an agreement with his wife that he would go on a year-long business trip to see what he could do, to better the family finances. On his way back with a bag of cash, at the forest in the outskirts of his city, he was stopped by a thief, who pulled out a gun. “Please don’t take the money that I made! This is the money I worked so hard for!” The thief said, with his drawn gun, “You work for your money, and this is the way that I work for my money! Hand over everything you got!!” The man handed over the bag, and the thief, with joy, smelled the many bills, with delight! The poor man then turned to the thief and said, “How am I going to come back, after a year, to my wife and kids, with nothing! They will think that I just wasted my time! They will never let me back home! What a failure I will be!” The thief said, “I feel bad for you, but what do you want me to do? This is my job!!” The poor man said, “At least help me make it look that I fought you! Here! I will take off my jacket and hang it on a tree! Please, shoot some holes in it with your gun, so that I can show my wife and prove my story that I fought to bring back some money!” The thief said, “Sure! No problem!” With that, he shot a bunch of gunshots through the man’s coat! “Thank you so much. You know what, maybe you can also shoot some more in my hat, as well, so that she can see how hard I tried to defend myself and the family finances!” The thief shot some more through the hat, but then he ran out of bullets! The moment the gun ran out of bullets, the poor man jumped on the thief and beat him up! He took back his bag of money and ran home with his year’s worth of work!

The same is true with the Yetzer Harah! He tries to take everything we worked hard on; he shoots his bullets at us, until he runs out of tests. Then, we can pick ourselves up and fight for everything that we have worked so hard for, and we run home with it. Our will to serve Hashem, he can’t take from us, if we just let him shoot at our clothes, but not at us, ourselves, at our spirit. Because it is the spirit, the Ratzon, that will make G-d take us out of Galut so fast, it is all G-d is waiting for!  Just like when Yosef was taken out of jail, he was rushed, וַיְרִיצֻ֖הוּ מִן־הַבּ֑וֹר, because no matter where he was, or what test he was in, he only wanted to serve Hashem, so Hashem hurried him out of the mess he was in, ויריצהו.

The only part of the Temple that man could not create, that Moshe could not figure out, was the Menorah! G-d told him again and again, how to create it, but Moshe could not figure it out; he could only want to make a Menorah, but G-d will have to actually make it for us! (That is why out of all the utensils of the Temple, only the Menorah is round, because G-d only makes round things. תני רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אין מרובע מששת ימי בראשית. Yerushalmi Maasrot 5;3, Nedarim 3;2, Shavuot 3;8, and more in Yerushalmi)

Hanuka’s purpose is to fix the lack of spiritual will, the lack of service of the heart. And that is what we need to take from Hanuka, going forward. As the Maggid of Mezritch, taught us,   יַקְרִ֣יב אֹת֔וֹ לִרְצֹנ֖וֹ לִפְנֵ֥י יְקֹוָֽק He shall bring it, his Ratzon, in front of G-d. (Vayikra 1:3)

The more we talk about our gratitude, and how we are indebted to G-d, the more we will be able to bring about our Will to serve Him. יהיו לרצון אמרי פי


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