Friday Candle Lighting: 4:26 pm
Shabbat Ends: 5:25 pm
Understanding the Times
“And he named him Yissaschar…” (30:18)
When you close your eyes and think of Chanuka, what comes to mind? The lights of the menorah; the dreidel spinning; the aroma of latkes and donuts.
And of course, the sound of “Maoz Tzur.”
In that beautiful stirring Chanuka song, we sing of the Bnei Bina, the “Children of Understanding.” Who were those children and what was it that they understood?
On the festival of Lag B’Omer there is a widespread custom to shoot arrows from a bow and arrow. The symbol of the month of Kislev, the current month, is the bow (Sagittarius, The Archer). What is the connection between the bow of Lag B’Omer and the bow of Kislev?
Lag B’Omer commemorates the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. On that day, before he left this world, Rabbi Shimon revealed much of the Torah’s hidden light. The “bow and arrow” symbolizes this revelation. How? White light seems indivisible, inscrutable. No detail can be discerned in its pure whiteness. The bow of the rainbow, however, reveals the secret anatomy of white light. It shows us how white light is really composed of all the colors.
Just as the rainbow reveals the hidden colors within the white light, so Rabbi Shimon revealed the hidden light within the Torah.
The most conspicuous event in the month of the bow, the month of Kislev, is Chanuka. Chanuka is the festival that celebrates the hidden light of the Torah. Yissaschar, the son of Yaakov most closely associated with Torah learning, was conceived on Chanuka and born on Shavuot. Birth is the ultimate revelation of the hidden. Just as the conception of life is something that only makes itself manifest after the fact, so Yissaschar’s entrance into this world connects the hidden and the revealed — the hidden light of Chanuka with its revelation on Mount Sinai on Shavuot.
Those “children of understanding” of whom we sing on Chanuka are Yissaschar’s children, who understood and inherited this connection of Chanuka to Shavuot. This is why the Book of Chronicles calls them “men with understanding of the times,” for they understood how the connection of those two times — Chanuka and Shavuot — are the link between the hidden and the revealed Torah.