Children of Understanding

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
The relationship between the Torah of Channukah & the Torah of Lag B'Omer
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When you close your eyes and think of Chanukah, what comes into your mind?

The lights of the chanukia. The dreidel spinning. The aroma of latkes and doughnuts. And of course - the sound of "Maoz Tzur."

In that beautiful stirring Chanukah song, we sing of the "Children of Understanding." Who were these "Children of Understanding" and what is their connection to Chanukah?

Another question.

The sign of Kislev is the bow or the rainbow - keshet. On the festival of Lag B'Omer there is a custom to shoot arrows from a bow and arrow. Is there a connection between the bow of Lag B'Omer and the bow of the Kislev, the month of Chanukah?

Lag B'Omer is the day of the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. The day on which he left this world, Rabbi Shimon revealed many of the hidden secrets of the Torah, the hidden light.

The revelation of the hidden light is like the revelation of the colors in the rainbow.

A rainbow reveals the anatomy of white light. White light seems indivisible. No detail can be discerned in its pure whiteness. The rainbow reveals the secret of the white light. It shows us how the white light is really composed of all the colors.

Rabbi Shimon told his son Rabbi Elazar "My son, do not expect the coming of Mashiach until you see the self-illuminated rainbow."

Just as the coming of Mashiach is compared to the revelation of the hidden light, so too Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is a symbol of the revelation of the hidden light, the hidden Torah.

This is the connection between the bow - the sign of the month of Kislev - in which the hidden light is revealed on Chanukah, and the rainbow which reveals the hidden colors within it.

Of all Yaakov Avinu's sons, the one most closely associated with Torah study is Yissaschar. Yissaschar was born on Shavuos, the festival of the Torah's giving. His conception, however, was on Chanukah.

Thus, Yissaschar himself, his very entrance into this world, connects Chanukah to Shavuos. Just as the conception of life is hidden from us, manifest only after the fact, so too Chanukah symbolizes the hidden light of the Torah.

Birth represents the ultimate revelation of that which is hidden. Shavuos too, is the ultimate revelation - the Torah revealed in light and sound on Mount Sinai. Shavuos is the Torah's "birthday" and the birth of the Jewish Nation.

The "Children of Understanding" that we sing of in Maoz Tzur are the children who inherited this connection - the connection of Chanukah to Shavuos. They are the children of Yissaschar who symbolize the connection between the hidden and the revealed Torah. As the Book of Chronicles says, the children of Yissaschar are "the knowers of understanding of the times."

Sources: Divrei Hayamim I 12:33, Bnei Yissaschar

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