Rav Lipman Podolsky z"l
Chanukah -- They rested on the twenty-fifth (Ran, Shabbos). Because they rested on the twenty-fifth, we celebrate. Implicit, though, is that before the twenty-fifth they did not rest. On the contrary, for fifty-two years of Syrian-Greek rule, they did not rest; they could not rest. They endured a religious persecution of unprecedented proportions. They hid away in underground caverns for years at a time to maintain a life of Torah and mitzvos. To remain Jewish was a risk to life and limb. This was no joke.
On the twenty-fifth we celebrate the fact that Hashem allowed us to rest. But what about the fact that for fifty-two years Hashem caused us to suffer?
Allow me to illustrate: You're walking down the street, and out of the blue some guy smacks you upside your head, knocking out most of your teeth. As you writhe on the asphalt in agony, he cheers you up, "Don't worry, I happen to be an expert orthodontist. I'll have your teeth back in shape in no time!" When, six months later, your teeth are perfect once again, do you thank him? If not for him, you wouldn't have needed dental surgery in the first place!
Ever see a picturesque panorama? What do you see? Mountains, valleys, topographical eccentricities. What makes the Grand Canyon so grand? Why do so many tourists pay big bucks to get there?
Imagine a vista of perfect flatness as far as the eye could see. Not a bump or bulge anywhere. How many tourists would it attract? Just plain boredom, that's all it is. That and fifty cents might get you a cup of coffee. (Just what did Orlando look like before Disney?)
Hashem incorporated into His universe an inviolable rule. No pain, no gain. Evening precedes morning. Without darkness, there can be no light. To ascend, one must first descend. Celebration results from suffering. It is specifically those Jews who live in western, liberal societies who least appreciate their ability to perform mitzvos. It is not until you have lost what you had that you begin to appreciate it.
This was the purpose of the fifty-two years. If not for all that pain and self-sacrifice for the sake of Torah and mitzvos, we never would have achieved the lofty spiritual degree of the twenty-fifth of Kislev. One who never worked has no need of rest. When we rest, we thank Hashem for the suffering as well. And we recognize that it's all part of the Plan.
Such is life. "Everything the Merciful One does is good (Brachos 60b)."
A Freilichen Chanukah!