Mrs. Raizy Guttman
It's almost lighting time and we're so excited! The excitement of Chanukah is already in the air here!
- Chanukah lasts for 8 days, and we all know that the miracle of Chanukah happened with a tiny pure flask of oil that was found in the Temple. It is interesting that the word for 8 is shmoneh is the same root as shemen which means oil!
- The question is, why? What's the connection between 8 and oil? Any words that have the same root have a very deep connection. The other word with the same root is shamen - fat. That connection is pretty clear. If you eat oily foods for 8 days... you'll become fat! [chuckle chuckle]
- But what's the REAL connection? The number 8 is considered above the regular physical world. Thats why the baby has a bris on the 8th day. He goes above nature, he becomes a Jew. 8 symbolizes spirituality.
- Chanukah's tremendous miracle is about one tiny container of oil that burned for longer than it naturally should.
- The book of our heritage asks "Why do we make such a big deal about THAT miracle when there was another miracle?" The few Jews who were unequipped beat the Greeks! Why do we always focus on the little flask of oil? Whereas if you think about it, the miracle of the war is actually even greater! And he answers:
The little flask of oil was more than just a container of oil, it was a container of hope. it was one tiny spark of holiness that was left in the dark spiritual influence of the Greeks. The Greeks tried to destroy the SOUL of the Jewish people. Other people tried to kill us physically. Most of our enemies want to just wipe out the Jews. The Greeks however tried to destroy the soul of the Jew and our spirituality. They told us that we couldnt keep all the commandments that we wanted. They said "You could live! But you must live like us! We want you to keep living...but not like you" A life that is devoid of spirituality and full of the influence and mentality of the physicality of the Greeks. They lived for pleasure, culture, education. When the Jews found one small flask of oil after everything else was destroyed, they felt that there was still hope that there would be continued spirituality. Judaism would live on. When they found that small flask of oil was enough to infuse them with hope that there was still spirituality. Then it burned for 8 days and that gave them hope that they would be able to rebuild all that was lost.
- We say in Al Hanissim that G-d put the many into the hands of the few. We are delivered into the mentality of the few. The mindset of the Jew is that we don't need alot. That is why the words shemen and shmoneh are the same roots as Neshama - the soul. The fact that it burned for 8 days means that it was one step above the regular course of the world. This is the message of that small drop of oil. They found the soul of the Jewish people. The mentality of the Jew is that we dont need alot of THINGS. A little physicality is good. But we don't need alot.
- Yavan - Greece - The hebrew word is the Yud, then the Vuv, which is a little bigger line and then a Nun which is the biggest! That itself shows us what their mentality was. Its a concept of more and more and more and more. That was the mentality of the Greeks. Unfortunately that mentality hasnt died.
- We see it in our exile today. The exile of nowadays encompasses all the other exiles. The first exile was all about them killing us because we're Jews. The second exile was about immorality, temptation and to take out the Judaism from the Jew. The third exile was that "We'll let you live as long as you become just like us!" We feel this so strongly throughout the world. The influence of secular ideas are infiltrated in every aspect of life.
- I was at the Kotel about a year ago and a mother came with her young son. He didn't really know how to spell. They were from America. She comes up to the wall and explains to her son that this is the Holy wall and you could ask G-d for whatever you want. All these notes in the wall are all requests... and i'll help you write a note if you want. This kid was so excited. He bends down and puts the paper on the chair and writes "G-d. Please make me rich." That was his only request. To make him rich. That is the secular mentality and what they live for.
- This Exile is already 2000 years long. But just as the other exiles came to an end, this too will come to an end
- What can we do to bring this exile to an end? That little spark of Judaism that is in every single one of us Jews no matter how far or close we are to Judaism. It is our job to bring out that spark.
- The oil is compared to the soul because there's a verse in Proverbs 20:27 "The candle of G-d is the soul of Man"
- Why is our soul compared to the candle of G-d?
- A beautiful answer is that just as the light of Holiness can never be extinguished, so too the soul of man can also never be extinguished. No matter what we do, no how low we have fallen, his connection to G-d can never be broken
- How do we know this? From the story of Chanukah
- Rabbi Moshe Wolfson says: When learning about Chanukah we see that G-d will always be connected to the Jew. According to Jewish law all types of wicks and oil are to be used for Chanukah. On Shabbos we have very high standard, but on chanukah we have no standard at all. Crude oil and course wicks are all acceptable on Chanukah.
- This teaches us that those souls that can't be lit up by Shabbos CAN be lit up by Chanukah. You can feel a holiness that is totally different on Chanukah than Shabbos. In order to feel the holiness of Shabbos we have to raise ourselves up. But on Chanukah its different. The holiness comes down to us.
- G-d brings light even to the lowest souls and it is possible for them to repent. G-d is coming down to us on Chanukah. There are so many stories to share about Chanukah and how people have come back through the lights.
- Another law of Chanukah is that it is preferable to put the menorah in a low place. 35 inches above the floor. And yet there is a Gemara that tells us that the presence of G-d doesnt descend lower than 35 inches. Why would we put the menorah in such a place? in order to prove this point.
- During Chanukah G-ds presence descends all the way down to the lowest of the low to penetrate even the lowliest souls.
- Chanukah is also at the coldest and darkest time of the year. In the year that the story of Chanukah took place it was the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year to show that the lights can penetrate the darkest times.
- We wear our every day clothes. If its a holiday why dont we get all dressed up? In order to show that the great light of G-d comes down to us no matter how mundane we are. It doesnt matter, G-d comes down to us and penetrates are souls regardless.
- With all these points in mind: The candle of G-d is the soul of man. The light of the schinah is waiting for all Jewish souls to reach up to that light. On Chanukah G-d doesnt wait for us to come up to Him. He comes down to us!
- We just have to make one small move. We have to hold up our wick and ask G-d to light us up with His light.
- How do we do this?
- 1 - we say at the end of Al Hanisim we say "Therefore G-d has set aside these 8 days of Chanukah in order that we should thank and praise Your Holy name" This tells us what were supposed to be doing on Chanukah! Its all about the thanks. Thats how we build our relationship with G-d.
- 2- You should look at the flames, the small fire and flame is a sign of purity. We are supposed to look at those lights with our eyes.
- 3 - everyone in the family should thank Hashem for something that they are grateful for.
- L'hodos - to thank - has the same root as Yehudi - a Jew. The essence of a Jew is to be grateful. L'hodos could mean to thank OR to act as a Jew! The Greek mentality is focusing on the body but we are not like them! We are focusing on our soul. We should wake up in the morning and ask "How am I going to feed my soul today?"
- Light is a symbol of hope and Torah. Light is a symbol of spirituality. When we talk about G-ds light we say "With the light of Your Face G-d, You have given us a living Torah and lovingkindness" What does the light of Your Face mean? Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss says it means your smile. Your smile lights up your face. If you want to spread light around, put on a smile!
- If you're thanking Hashem all Chanukah all you can do is smile!!
- This is a holiday that we spread onto others.
- Theres a beautiful story that a very rich man was once driving by and saw a small boy sitting on the floor and crying. He said "Why are you crying?" The boy told him that he had no money and his father told him that he sent him to buy a small bottle of oil and i broke it! How can I return to my father without my oil intact? The rich man says here! Take a 100 dollars and go buy whatever you need!" Later on, the rich man [who was secular] found himself being very moved by this child. The words reverberated in his mind "How can I return to my father without my oil intact?" He took that small piece of glass and decided that they would light Chanukah candles. He went to the store and bought the menorahs and candles and brought them home. He looked at the candles all night thinking and listening to that voice reverberating in his head. Afterwards he decided to become a little more religious. He and his wife took on keeping kosher, and slowly they continued to become very religious. He thought "How can I return to my father in Heaven without my soul intact?"
[And now the Guttman family lights the menorah]