Rebbe Nachman, as recorded in Likutei Eitzos, Chanukah, makes a somewhat enigmatic statement: the selach na (“please forgive”s) that we utter on Yom Kippur enable us to partake of the holiness of Chanukah.
What is the connection?
In Likutei Moharan Tinyana 7:11, the Rebbe relates to the interaction between G-d and Moshe Rabbenu during the aftermath of the sin of the spies. Moshe Rabbenu says to G-d, “please forgive this people for their sin in Your great kindness”. In this case, Moshe Rabbenu was not only relating to the sin of speaking lashon hora about Eretz Yisrael, thereby causing an epidemic of bad faith amongst the Children of Israel; instead, he took the long view, and considered the sin in terms of its ultimate consequence: the future destruction of the Holy Temple. The gemara (Taanis 29) states, “Hashem, may He be blessed, said to them, ‘you cried a crying for no reason. I will establish a crying for all generations’.” As we know, the lamenting over the idea of entering Eretz Yisrael occurred on Tisha b’Av, as did the destruction of the two Batei Mikdash.
Sin destroyed the Holy Temple. The absence of the Temple is problematic in and of itself, because it was the primary mechanism in the expiation of sin for the Jewish people, both collectively and individually. The verse (Yeshaya 1) states, “righteousness dwells in it”, and Rashi explains this to mean that this was possible because the morning tamid-offering cleared all of the sins from the previous night, while the afternoon tamid-offering cleared all of the sins from that day. As long as the Beis HaMikdash was extant, it was possible for the Jewish people to be clean of sin. Rebbe Nachman emphasizes here that this is all-important, because the Jewish people, due to their delicateness and high level of spirituality, cannot really bear the weight of sin, even for one day. Without the Beis HaMikdash, there is no way to relieve ourselves of that crushing burden–and Moshe Rabbenu knew this. Therefore, he said:
סְלַח-נָא, לַעֲוֹן הָעָם הַזֶּה–כְּגֹדֶל חַסְדֶּךָ; וְכַאֲשֶׁר נָשָׂאתָה לָעָם הַזֶּה, מִמִּצְרַיִם וְעַד-הֵנָּה
Now, if you look at part of this phrase, namely:
הַזֶּה–כְּגֹדֶל חַסְדֶּךָ; וְכַאֲשֶׁר נָשָׂאתָה
You will notice that the roshei teivos (first letters), when arranged properly, spell out the word חנוכה, “Chanukah”. Moshe Rabbenu asked specifically that the forgiveness of the Jewish people should involve an antidote to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash–a chanukas habayis (re-dedication of the house). When the Maccabi’im entered the Beis HaMikdash and purified the altar, as we commemorate on Chanukah, this was an example of Moshe Rabbenu’s request for restoration made manifest for the benefit of the Jewish people.
The main aspect of the holiness of Chanukah that we aim for is the very purpose of that Holy Temple: to know that Hashem Hu HaElokim, that the L-rd is G-d–specifically, that His attributes of kindness and judgement, which appear as separate, contradictory forces in the world, are aspects of His Oneness. We end Yom Kippur with this statement, this idea. And we re-invoke it on Chanukah. This knowledge can enable us to purify ourselves from sin.
In addition, as we gaze at the menorah’s warm radiance, and the candles burn on into the night, let us tap into that desire that lies deep within us, to carry this knowledge of holiness and purity forth to our children, for all generations.