Last week President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This historic and courageous action has been the target of much opposition, but not enough recognition. Chazal teach us that the hearts of world leaders are in Hashem’s hand. Days before we celebrate Chanukah, Hashem willed that the leader of the free world should recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Coincidence? Heaven forbid!
Every year Asara B’Teves is observed a mere couple of days after Chanukah. On Asara B’Teves we mourn the day the walls of Yerushalayim were breached, which began the process of the churban. I assure you once again that this is no coincidence.
The Chasam Sofer (Toras Moshe in Vayikra) explains that a person is only permitted to fast on Shabbos if fasting will give him more oneg (pleasure) than eating. (That’s why one may fast for a disturbing dream on Shabbos.) He explains that this is also why the Bahag writes that should Asara B’Teves fall out on Shabbos, we observe it that day (even though Asara B’Teves is only a rabbinic fast).
The original Asara B’Teves was a yom hadin (judgment day) on which it was decided whether there would be a churban that year. The Chasam Sofer says that each year on Asara B’Teves there is another yom hadin regarding whether the Beis Hamikdash will be destroyed again that year since as, the Yerushalmi says, every generation during which the Beis Hamikdash is not rebuilt is considered to have destroyed it. Thus, on Asara B’Teves we don’t merely remember the tragedy that occurred on that day 2,000 years ago; rather we also stand in judgment before Hashem regarding the fate of the Beis Hamikdash. Since the fast is relevant to the future, we would have more oneg by fasting than eating even if the fast falls on Shabbos.
I’d like to suggest that the reason Chanukah comes just a week before Asara B’Teves is because Chanukah helps us prepare for the judgment day of Asara B’Teves. On Chanukah, our hearts are reminded of the Beis Hamikdash as we light menorahs commemorating the menorah in the Beis Hamikdash. The Bach (in beginning of Hilchos Chanukah) writes that the troubles that led up to the miracle of Chanukah came about as a result of the weakened state of the avodah in the Beis Hamikdash. The Chashmona’im, who were kohanim, rectified this defect by risking their lives for the avodah. Hashem, therefore, returned the avodah and Beis Hamikdash to Klal Yisrael.
The Chashmona’im realized that the Beis Hamikdash was, as we say in the berachos of the haftorah, “bais chayenu” – the house of our lives – without which we cannot live. The Torah is our life, and the Torah comes from Tzion. On Chanukah, we should be inspired to yearn for the Beis Hamikdash which we so desperately need.
This year Hashem put Yerushalayim front and center a few days before Chanukah. He put in the mind and heart of the president of the United States to officially recognize Yerushalayim as the capital of Israel. Suddenly, discussions arise: Does Yerushalayim belong to the Jews? Did it always? There was a Jewish state centered around Yerushalayim thousands of years ago etc. etc. And what was the pinnacle of Yerushalayim back then? The Beis Hamikdash.
Tosafos (on Baba Basra 21a) explains that when a person would come to the Beis Hamikdash and witness kohanim performing the avodah, he would be tremendously inspired to serve Hashem better. May we utilize Chanukah this year to become inspired and develop a strong yearning for the Beis Hamikdash and, as a result, receive a favorable judgment on Asara B’Teves. Amen.