A New Level of Awareness
The Dedication of the Altar
In addition to the Maccabees' military victory over the Greeks
and the miracle of the Menorah, Chanukah commemorates the
rededication of the Beis HaMikdash  and its altar after it had
been defiled by the Greeks. 
Accordingly, the name Chanukah is derived from the word chinuch
which means not only "education" but also "dedication".
Dedication is also the theme of the passages which the Sages
chose for the daily reading of the Torah during Chanukah. 
They describe the inaugural offerings brought by the tribal
leaders of the Jewish people for the dedication of the altar
in the desert,  offerings which opened up new spiritual
possibilities for our material world.
Why was the Chanukah Miracle Necessary?
The concept underlying the dedication of the altar helps us
understand the Maccabean rededication of the Beis HaMikdash.
The kindling of the Menorah (like the offering of communal
sacrifices) may be practiced in a state of ritual impurity when
there is no other alternative.  Why, then, was the Chanukah
Among the answers offered to this question  is that this
leniency applies only to sacrifices brought upon an existing
altar and to lights kindled upon an existing Menorah. However,
when the Beis HaMikdash, the altar, and the Menorah all had to
be rededicated because they had been defiled by the Greeks, this
leniency could not be relied upon.
The oil used for rededicating the Menorah had to be ritually
pure: the source of spiritual light for our world cannot be
established through divine service that is acceptable only after
On the contrary, the rededication of the Beis HaMikdash requires
divine service of the highest level attainable. This was achieved
by the mesirus nefesh ("self-sacrifice") of the Maccabees in
their struggle for purity.
Making Our World a Dwelling Place for G-d
To the superficial observer, our world appears to function as an
utterly physical entity, with no obvious connection to G-dliness
This is the case because G-d desired "a dwelling in the lower
worlds,"  meaning that He wanted His presence to be revealed
in a setting where, by nature, He is not recognized.
The very nature of the material framework which He created
obscures spiritual awareness and breeds self-concern.
A radical change, the introduction of a new approach to
existence, is necessary for the world to serve as a dwelling
place for G-d. 
The construction of the Sanctuary and later, the Beis HaMikdash,
ushered in this new approach, for these structures served as
"dwelling places for G-d," places where His presence was openly
To inaugurate a structure of this type, a heightened level of
divine service is required; this is what is meant by chinuch -
A Focus on Children
Chinuch, as has been mentioned, also means "education".
The introduction of radical changes also takes place in the
education of a child.
Education is not intended to merely enable the child to progress
somewhat within his existing cognitive framework, but to
introduce him to new approaches and effect pervasive changes
in his nature.
For this reason, at the beginning of his formal education (and at
the introduction of each new stage in his development), the child
is given presents which, like the additional sacrifices offered
to dedicate the altar, will stimulate his growth  throughout
this lifelong endeavor.
In the spirit of Chanukah,  he will "always advance higher
in holy matters."
This, too, is the motivation underlying the cherished custom of
giving children the gifts of pocket money known as "Chanukah
To Dedicate the World
"Educate a youth according to his way; even when he grows old,
he will not depart from it." 
The points outlined above remain relevant as youths mature and
start homes of their own, for every Jewish home is a "sanctuary
in microcosm"  which must be dedicated to serve as a source
for the diffusion of Divine light.
Through our efforts in the study of Torah, in the service of
prayer, and in giving tzedakah, we continuously spread G-dly
light throughout the entire world.
Chanukah in particular reminds us to spread the "lamp of
a mitzvah and the light of the Torah,"  even when darkness
appears to envelop our surroundings.
Chanukah thus represents "the dedication of the world," 
for the world was created for the sake of the Torah, 
and the miracles of Chanukah make it possible for this purpose
to be fulfilled.
Thus, as the light of Chanukah spreads throughout the world,
we become conscious that the world is G-d's dwelling place, and
thereby hasten the coming of the Redemption, when we will
dedicate the Third Beis HaMikdash.
May this take place in the immediate future.
- (Back to text) Shibalei HaLeket, sec. 174; see also Torah Or, Parshas
- (Back to text) Darkei Moshe and Rama (Orach Chayim 670:1); Maharsha,
Chiddushei Aggados, on Sanhedrin 21b; Torah Or, loc. cit.
According to the Rama, it is because of the dedication of
the Menorah that Chanukah should be celebrated by festive
gatherings and feasts.
- (Back to text) Bamidbar, ch. 7.
- (Back to text) See Yalkut Shimoni, Melachim, sec. 184, which states that
the twenty-fifth of Kislev also marks the date of the
completion of the Sanctuary erected in the desert.
Although the Sanctuary was not erected until Nissan, G-d
promised this day, the twenty-fifth of Kislev, that He
would repay it at a later time. That debt was duly paid
with the Maccabees' dedication of the altar on that date.
- (Back to text) Zevachim 22b; Rambam, Hilchos Bias HaMikdash 4:9.
- (Back to text) Gilyonei HaShas, Shabbos 21b. See also the essay on "The
Message of the Chanukah Lights," which offers an
alternative resolution to this question.
- (Back to text) Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3; cited in
Tanya, chs. 33 and 36.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VI, Parshas Shmos.
- (Back to text) Moreover, the physical substance of the world itself was
included in G-d's dwelling, as is reflected in the change
in its halachic status. From the time an article was
consecrated for use in the Sanctuary or the Beis
HaMikdash, it could not be used for mundane purposes.
- (Back to text) See the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sanhedrin
- (Back to text)0:1); Or HaTorah on Chanukah, pp. 299b, 934b.
- (Back to text) Shabbos, loc. cit. See the explanation in the essay on
"The Message of the Chanukah Lights."
- (Back to text) HaYom Yom, entry for 28 Kislev. The importance of this
custom may be seen in the preference for giving children
Chanukah gelt several times during Chanukah. See
Hisvaaduyos 5747, Vol. 2, p. 123, footnote 23 and sources
cited there; see also the Sichah of 22 Kislev, 5749.
- (Back to text) Mishlei 22:6.
- (Back to text) Cf. Megillah 29a. See the essay entitled "Every Home a
Chabad House" (Sichos In English, Vol. 34, pp. 39-48.)
- (Back to text) Mishlei 6:23.
- (Back to text) Shelah, Torah SheBichsav, p. 301b (in the Amsterdam
- (Back to text) Rashi on Bereishis 1:1.