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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Chanuka. Ma'oz Tzur- The Thirteen Breaches

Yasher Koach to Harav Micha Berger, who sent me his Dvar Torah for Chanuka.  Reb Micha tells us that when in Ma'oz Tzur it says ופרצו חומות מגדלי, that the Greeks breached the walls of my tower, this refers to the Mishna in Middos.  Here is the beginning of Reb Micha's post:

The 5th verse of Ma’oz Tzur describes the Chanukah story. One phrase in this verse is “ufortzu chomos migdalai“, which would be literally translated “and burst open the walls of my citadel”. Mentally, I used to picture breaking down the walls of the Beis haMiqdosh, or perhaps a fortress. However, I found the following mishnah in Middos (Ch. 2, mishnah 2 in the Yachin uBo’az edition, mishnah 3 in Kahati’s — who splits up the Yu”B‘s mishnah 1 into 2 parts). The second chapter describes the Beis haMiqdosh as it would appear to someone walking in from outside the Temple Mount to the Altar. This mishna picks up right after you walk through the gate and onto the Temple Mount.
Inside of it is the soreg, 10 tefachim [appx 2'6"] high. It had thirteen peratzos (broken openings) there, that the Hellenist kings partzum (broke open). They returned and closed them off, and legislated corresponding to them 13 prostrations.
To help you picture what a soreg is, the root means woven. The Bartenura describes the soreg as a mechitzah woven out of thin wooden slats running at diagonals. The Bartenura compares it to the part of the bed used to support the mattress, with plenty of open space inside the weave.
He goes on to say that the Hellenists opened up holes in the soreg opposite each of the gates in the outer wall to let anyone see in. Note the shoresh used /p-r-tz/, the same as in the piyut. The soreg marked the limit for gentiles, they were not allowed in beyond that point. To the Hellenist mind, this havdalah bein Yisrael la’Amim, separation between the Jews and the other nations, was repugnant. It ran against their assimilationist efforts.
Reb Micha then weaves together ideas from Rav Hutner and Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch to teach a lesson about the symbolism of the Soreg wall and the role of the Jewish People, with special relevance to the victory of Chanuka.

This pshat in Ma'oz Tzur is discussed by Rav Gedaliah Shor in his Or Gedaliyahu, by Rav Mordechai Vinkler in his Levushei Mordechai, and by Rav Mordechai Ezrachi in his Birkas Mordechai.

I only want to make a minor observation.  In one of the Megillas Antiochuses (מגילת אנטיוכוס) that we have, a reference is made  to breaches being made in a wall called "shaar bas rabbim."   This can be seen here, four lines from the bottom.  What it says is
ויהרגו מהם רבים וחומות ירושלם נתצו ויפרצו בתוקפם י״ג פרצות בשער בת רבים וקצץ הפרכת ובטל המערכה והסיר התמיד והרס המזבחות

The term שער בת רבים might refer to the Soreg as well.  After all, it follows a description of their having ruined the walls of the city, and immediately afterwards talks of the damage they did within the Beis Hamikdash. But it might not.  Most people that use the term, and the mefarshim in Shir Hashirim 4:5 where the term appears, understand it to refer to the gates of Yerushalayim, not the Soreg.

Anyway, if the words of Maoz Tzur refers to the Soreg, the expression חומות מגדלי is odd, because the Soreg was certainly not a choma. If the description in Megilas Antiochus refers to the wall of the Har Habayis, or the Azara, whatever Sha'ar Bas Rabbim means, and it is not the Soreg, then it is an interesting coincidence that the number thirteen appears in both cases.

And finally, I want to publicize my personal experience this Chanuka.  I always approach the holiday with a degree of anxiety, because my shiur has for a long time been giving me increasingly expensive and therefore embarrassing gifts, for Chanuka, Purim, my birthday, and Baruch Hashem there are no other days they've thought of.  So last night, before coming into the shiur, I nervously glanced in, and I was relieved to see no tables were set, no sufganiyot, and no glint of gift wrap.  I sat down to begin the shiur, and in walk my friends pushing a MASSIVE SNOW BLOWER.   I mean massive in the sense that this is a multi-horsepower behemoth that can breeze down a block of two foot deep snow without a hiccup.  It would plow through the Soreg with ease.  I think this is unprecedented in the history of Daf Yomi, and I am proud of the bizarre but wonderful and heartwarming thought process, and the desire to show kavod hatorah and hakaras hatov that brought this about.  May Hashem bless them, every last one of them, with Arichas Yamim v'Shanim of good health and happiness.

Here it is.
First reaction:

Second reaction:

Final reaction:

And this video is here partly because they're singing Maoz Tzur, but mostly because I like it.  The group's name is Kipalive.  Thanks, Steve, for sending it.


Eli said...

The symbolism of breaking the Soreg is likely not only an anachronistic observation after the fact, but was most probably evident to the Hellenists themselves. Josephus tells us there were actual signs on the Soreg, in Greek and Latin, saying that a non-jew passing this point will be executed. These signs were later found (only the Greek part) - one of them is now presented in Istanbul, and the other one I saw in Israel Museum, see here
So it is quite easy to see how the meaning of the Soreg was clear to all, and why it was not popular among the Hellenists.

Interestingly, this link referes to Josephus who quotes (or "quotes") Titus as recognizing the issur of non-Jews to enter the Soreg, and offering to uphold it if the uprise against Rome stops. See here (p.338 bottom)

Avraham said...

Hi Rav Barzilai
Have you ever thought about recording your daf yomi shiur and posting it online on your site?

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

That's an interesting idea. My immediate reaction is that the value of my shiur is in the personal interaction and relationship, rather than the learning per se. But it's something to think about.

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

Eli- It's interesting that it was such a serious issue at that time. It's true that the tuma of their garments was a consideration, but they themselves were only tamei per the Yud Ches Davar, the 18 takkanos. It seems that this din mechitza was viewed as seriously as הגונב את הקסוה והמקלל בקוסם והבועל ארמית.

Eli said...

Anyway it's a separate issur, as the Rishonim say in Keilim - Zavim are not allowed to go as far in as the Soreg, so for this purpose Goyim are not like Zavim. Thus, the "Zavim" gzeira does not apply in Mikdash (Achronim say, because the pasuk tells us they can enter) and there is a separate issur of entering into the Soreg.

If the whole purpose of teh Soreg was to mark the line for Goyim, it proves this Gzeira was Noheg in times of Hashmonaim, much earlier than the Yud Ches davar

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

Eli, all I was pointing out was that even before the yud ches, they must have worried about the keilim of the people walking into the Azara, because it's assur to bring keilim that are tamei tumas meis into the Azara, as in 3 Biyas Mikdash 16-17.

Eli said...

That's true, but besides the issue of possible Tum'a of the garments, there is a separate Gzeira forbidding a Goy to enter beyond the Soreg. This Gzeira is not the same as the Zavim one.

It's possible that both Gzeiros postdate the Chashmonaim, and the Soreg at their time was only to mark the border for Tmei-Mes (which might have included Goyim due to their garments being Safek Tame, like you said). However, I think it is as likely (maybe) to say that the Goyim-out-of-Soreg Gzeira predated the Chashmonaim, and this was the reason the Hellenists made the holes in the Soreg, as the TY"T and Gr"a say.

Avraham said...

The other benefit of putting the shiurim up online would be that the participants could review it again. It is not easy to find maggidei shiurim who are articulate and have a good command of English. I think it would be very worthwhile uploading your daf yomi shiur.