Chanukah 5777 Part VII: Shabbos Chanukah and The Kohanim Gedolim


On Shabbos Chanukah, or the first Shabbos when Chanukah is spread over two, the haftorah is taken from the book of Zechariah. Among the interesting things going on in these chapters is a vision which shows the Yehoshua, the next Kohel Gadol in filthy, soiled clothing. These garments are to be removed from him before he is to ascend to become the High Priest. While it is understandable why he would need to disrobe from these dirty clothes before taking on such a role, Chazal have interpreted this as Yehoshua being commanded to inform his children that they should divorce their gentile spouses. This interpretation is indeed puzzling. Typically in Judaism, the actions of one’s children cannot disqualify them from serving Hashem. Therefore, the question arises as to why this command is given to Yehoshua’s children.

Rav Moshe Soloveitchik explained in the name of his father, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, that by marrying gentiles, Yehoshua’s children had denied the very fundamentals of the Jewish faith, something that cannot receive atonement. During the Temple service of Yom Kippur,  the Kohen Gadol seeks to have his entire family be forgiven for their various transgressions, yet this is only on the condition that actually are engaged in teshuvah. If Yehoshua’s children were still married to their non-Jewish spouses, he could not achieve atonement on their behalf. Only after these unions were annulled could Yehoshua even perform the Avodah, the most sacred of work.

The Rav records an interesting note, an additional miracle of Chanukah, one that is often overlooked. In the introduction to his laws of Chanukah, Rambam writes of Mattisyahu’s sons that they were “Bnei Chashmonei HaKohanim HaGedolim” or High Priests. At one time, there can only be one Kohen Gadol. Why does Rambam write that all the sons were Kohanim Gedolim? Rav Soloveitchik writes that Rambam is alluding to the fact that each of the sons were eligible to become the Kohen Gadol. Much like the miracle of finding a single cruse of pure olive oil, finding a family that was not touched by the rampant assimilation that permeated Jewish life at that time, was itself also a neis.


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