As is well known, we count our days according to the cycles of the moon. The moon begins as a small sliver, barely visible in the nighttime sky. Every night it grows in size, until by mid-month the moon is a full orb, highlighting the celestial backdrop. However, towards the end of the month the moon shrinks again, until it disappears several days before Rosh Chodesh.
This teaches us an important lesson. If someone is going through a difficult challenge and the world appears a dark, unforgiving place, he should take heart: though the sky may appear black, within a few days the moon will shine in all its glory, illuminating the landscape, planting fresh hope inside his heart.
Conversely, when someone is at the height of his power, when things are going well, financially, with one’s family etc, one should not become arrogant and conceited. Just as the moon is at its full zenith in the middle of the month, but then gradually shrinks, so, too, his good fortune may not last forever. He must remember Who gave it to him.
The Arugas Habosem explaines, “learn that the moon’s cycles teach us about faith in Hakodosh Boruch Hu during difficult as well as successful times. That may be why the Yivonim were so adamant about abolishing Rosh Chodesh, because they wanted to abolish these lessons from our hearts.
EVERYONE’S TORAH IS VALUABLE
According to halachah, even those wicks that are not kosher to light Neiros Shabbos are kosher for the Chanukah menorah. Why?
The Neir Chanukah alludes to the chochmah of Torah. Torah is our birthright, regardless of our skill or aptitude. Every single Yid is obligated to learn Torah, and everyone can learn if they try.
As we learn in in Tana D’Bai Eliyohu, Eliyohu Hanovi once arrived somewhere, where he found a man who did not know chumash or mishnayos, and he mocked Eliyohu.
Eliyohu Hanovi asked him, “What will you tell your Creator on the Day of Judgment?” To which the man replied, “I will tell my Creator that He did not give me the wisdom to understand how to learn.”
“What is your parnossah?” asked Eliyohu Hanovi.
“I am a fisherman,” he replied.
”And who gave you the wisdom to take flax, weave a net, and catch fish?”
“Hashem gave me the wisdom.”
“Listen to yourself. If Hashem gave you the wisdom to weave a net, of course you also have the wisdom to learn Torah, about which the posuk says ‘Because it is very close to you, in your mouth and heart.’”
Hearing this, the man began to moan, weeping about his wasted years, until Eliyohu comforted him, telling him it is not too late.
This should teach us a powerful example, every single member of Klal Yisroel, even those were not gifted with above-average intelligence, are obligated to learn. That is why the neiros of Chanukah, which allude to Torah, our birthright, were allowed to be made of inferior quality wicks.
RELYING ON HIS KINDNESS…
One year, after Chanukah licht, the Apta Rov went out on the street for a quarter-hour and returned. Later on he went out again and came back, his face shining with joy.
The rov explained to the curious chassidim, “When I went out on the street for the first time, I glimpsed that all the parnossah which had been bashert for our city on Rosh Hashanah had already been ‘eaten,’ a fact which distressed me greatly. Later I went out a second time, and realized that the same thing occurred last year.
However, Hakodosh Boruch Hu supported us the entire year with His kindness, and the same is sure to occur again this year as well….
CURED FROM DEPRESSION
A bitter, unhappy Yid once came to the Apta Rov, and complained that he was suffering from severe depression. The rov told him to stare at the Chanukah licht while they are burning. The Yid obeyed, and was cured.
The Tchortokover Rov explained the inyan: The nature of light is to illuminate a person’s spirit and bring him simcha. It follows, then, that the spiritual light of the Chanukah menorah has the power to illuminate one’s heart and bring simcha to the soul. Therefore, one who suffers from depression should be vigilant in staring at the Chanukah candles, because they will bring simcha to his spirit.
HEALED BY THE FLAMES
Rav Shlomo of Karlin was sitting by the Chanukah lights, when a brokenhearted man came to unburden his heart. Unfortunately, he suffered from melancholy and depressing thoughts, which urged him to abandon his faith.
When the rebbe said the mizmorim and piyutim that are customarily recited while sitting by the menorah, he said the posuk “vayifrikeinu mitzoreinu,” and he removed our tzoros from us. Tapping the man’s shoulder, Rav Shlomo asked, “Do you believe that Hashem can save us from our fears and angst?” At that moment, the negative thoughts left the man, and he was healed.
ACCEPTING THE POTCH!
The Kozhnitzer Maggid once related the following story:
“When I was a child of seven, I learned by Rav Yechezkel of Ostrov. At night I would study in the local Bais Medrash.
“One year on Chanukah, my father was reluctant to allow me to go to the Bais Medrash because he was afraid that I would join the other boys who played karten, or cards. However, I could not learn at home because we were so poor, we had no candles for light, or seforim. After I begged and pleaded, my father agreed to let me go, but made me promise to come home when my candle was extinguished. Thus he felt secure that I would not play cards.
However, from Shomayim I merited a neis. The candle continued burning through the night, and was not extinguished until dawn. I continued learning, oblivious to the lateness of the hour. When I arrived home, my father was angry, and gave me a potch for breaking my promise.
“Had I told my father the truth,” said the Maggid, “he would have believed me, because I never said a lie. But I did not want to benefit from the koach haTorah. Thus, I chose to bear the potch in silence instead.”
JUST LIKE THE GREEKS
Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev once found bochurim sitting on Chanukah and playing cards. The Kedushas Levi said to them, “The main gezeirah of the Greeks was to make the Yidden forget the Torah and mitzvos. Thus, it is an obligation upon us to strengthen our Torah learning on Chanukah, to break the strength of the evil forces.
“During this holy spiritual time, the soton tries to entice bochurim to close their gemaras and play cards, which brings numerous pitfalls: one forgets about Hashem, takes someone else’s money away….what do you need this for? Leave the cards alone and let’s go learn Torah.”
WHY THE ROV WAITED
It is well known that the Sanzer Rov would give all his money for tzedokah, each evening, until he possessed not a single prutah. The Chanukah menorah would be pawned the entire year, and redeemed in time for Chanukah.
One year, the Sanzer made no effort to redeem his menorah before Chanukah. When the first evening of Chanukah arrived, his children made a supreme effort to raise the money and redeem the menorah.
When evening approached, the rov locked himself into his study and made no mention of lighting the menorah. Nobody understood why the rov was waiting.
Suddenly, the door opened, and a couple from Gorlitz arrived, carrying an ornate menorah. The man asked if the rov already lit the menorah, because he had bought the rov a new menorah for a gift. On the way, they got lost and wasted lots of time getting back on track.
They were upset that they probably missed the tzaddik’s hadlokas haneiros. When they discovered that the rov had not yet bentched Chanukah licht, they were beside themselves with joy.
Now his children understood why the rov waited so long for the menorah.
PREPARING THE WICKS
The talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov, who sensed the purity and holiness of Chanukah, would prepare the wicks for the menorah several weeks in advance. In the Sefer Darchei Chaim it is brought that the Divrei Chaim began learning inyonei Chanukah on Motzoei Simchas Torah!
The Imrei Yosef and his son, the Chakal Yitzchok of Spinka, began learning the sugya of Chanukah on Rosh Chodesh Kislev. Rav Elimelech of Tosh would prepare the menorah thirty days before Chanukah!
WHAT ARE YOU SHOVING FOR?
One year, at the Chanukah licht of Rav Moshe Kobriner, there was no room, and some chassidim began shoving in order to see better. With his typical humility, Rav Moshe announced, “What can you see already? How an elderly Yid makes a fool of himself?” Later he said, “It is known before the Ribono Shel Olam that I used to light in a cheap earthenware menorah, but now I have a silver menorah, and to me there is no difference between them.”
KRIYAS SHEMA SHEL SHACHARIS
The Ribnitzer Rebbe had a custom to sit by the Chanukah licht until they were extinguished. The entire time, he focused on the flames with exemplary dveikus. He would not eat or even get up until the candles burned out.
One year, the rebbe received a grand menorah as a gift. The bechers were especially deep and were able to contain a large quantity of oil. The rebbe filled them to the top, and sat near the candles until the morning. The following day, his shammas quickly filled the bechers with water, so that there would be less space for oil, and the rebbe would be able to eat before dawn…
NOT TO CAUSE ANOTHER YID PAIN
The Ribnitzer Rebbe would caution his family not to run through the area where the menorah was standing, so that the menorah would not tip over. One year, the shammas mistakenly brushed past the menorah, and one light was extinguished. The shammas was frightened, knowing how much importance the rebbe attached to every light, and how much tzaar he certainly had. Yet instead of becoming angry, the rebbe merely smiled.
The shammas later attested, “I was in awe of the rebbe’s power to control his emotions in order not to cause me anguish.”
THE SAME RIBONO SHEL OLAM
When Rav Shmuel of Slonim was a young man, he prepared his Chanukah menorah one Friday afternoon, and left to watch his zeide, the “Yesod HoAvodah” of Slonim, light the menorah. In the meantime, a guest had arrived, and, unaware the Rav Shmuel had prepared the menorah for himself, lit the menorah!
When Rav Shmuel returned and realized what had happened, it was already too late to prepare another menorah. He didn’t become angry, and calmly said, “The same Ribono Shel Olam who commanded us to light the menorah, commanded us not to get angry.” And without another word, he went to shul to say Kabolas Shabbos.
FROM CHODESH ELUL ‘TIL CHANUKAH
Rav Dovid Dinover repeated the following vort from his father, Rav Tzvi Elimelech, the Bnei Yissoschor:
From Rosh Chodesh Elul until Chanukah, the heavens are lit up in the shape of a hand, to be mekabel all the baalei teshuvah who come close, and were not accepted during the ten days of teshuvah. The shape of the hand does not disappear until the last day of Chanukah, according to the posuk “B’zos yechupar avon,” on Zos Chanukah, all sins are forgiven…
STARING AT THE CANDLES
It is important to stare at the Chanukah licht for the entire half hour after they are lit. These lights represent the “ohr haganuz,” the hidden lights that were hidden shortly after Creation, and will be shown to us in the World to Come.
As Rav Pinchos of Koritz says, when we light the Chanukah candles, we bring down the “ohr hagonuz,” the hidden light, which burned for 36 hours, until the first Motzoei Shabbos of Odom Harishon’s life. That is why we light 36 candles in all. In addition, the 36 candles represent the 36 mesechtos of Shas.
JUST LIKE THE TAVERN-KEEPER!
The Shulchan Aruch mentions that if one says “Shiros V’sishbachos,” songs and words of praise to the One Above during a meal on Chanukah, it becomes a seudas mitzvah.
Says the Chiddushei Harim, “This is compared to a rov that makes a shidduch with a tavern-keeper. Of course, the tavern-keeper will host the wedding and pay for the expenses, because he is so happy about the shidduch!”
The same applies to a seudah on Chanukah. If we say words of Praise to the One Above, we are proving that we rejoice with the mitzvah, and thank Hashem for the victory.
THE “KUNTZ” IS NOT TO REMAIN STANDING…
The Halacha is, “kol hatofes Ner Chanukah v’omeid..lo osoh klum.” Whoever holds the ner Chanukah in his hands and remains standing, did not accomplish anything.
Reb Yisroel of Tchortokov said as follows: One who holds the Ner Chanukah in his hands, and he remains an ‘omeid,’ does not move upward spiritually, and does not think about the depth of the mitzvah, did not accomplish anything other than lighting a candle. He doesn’t think the ner Chanukah has any connection to him at all….
REACHING OUT – OR PULLING BACK
It is a mitzvah to place the menorah at the doorway. In a time of danger, one puts the menorah inside on the table.
One of the ikarim of our Faith is not to worry only for one’s own needs, but to be oseik in the mitzvah of Chanukah, to be mechanech other Yidden who are on the outside, looking in. However, in times of danger, when doing so would imperil our own families, says the Olalos Ephraim, we must put the menorah on the table, and care for the education of our own children first.
WHEN THINKING WON’T ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING…
According to halacha, if one does not have enough money to buy neiros Chanukah or the Arba Kosos on Pesach, he must go begging from door to door to gather funds. Why is the halacha machmir on especially these mitzvos?
Said the Sochatchover Rebbe, “Because every other mitzvah, the halacha is, if one is prevented from fulfilling it, the machshava, the thought, is considered as if he did the mitzvah. However, regarding Chanukah and Pesach, the main mitzvah is pirsumei nissah, publicizing the neis, and thus one can’t fulfill this mitzvah without concrete action.
CHANUKAH, A TIME OF TESHUVAH
On Chanukah we light the candles at night, in the darkness, by the outer door, and lower than ten tefachim.
These halachos symbolize a basic tenet of our emunah. Even if one is far from the Ribono Shel Olam, in a place where there are no G-d fearing Jews, One can draw closer to the Ribono Shel Olam. The darkness symbolizes difficult times in a person’s life; the
outer door symbolizes a place far away, and lower than ten tefochim symbolizes a place devoid of the shechina, because the Divine Presence does not come to rest lower than ten tefochim.
Even in such despairing circumstances, there is still hope. The holiness of the ner Chanuka will heal those who are far away, and bring them closer to the Ribono Shel Olam.
ZOS CHANUKAH IN BELZ
The minhag in Belz was that on the last day of Chanukah, all the seforim that had been purchased and bound in the past year were brought into the Bais Medrash. The tinokos shel bais rabbon, the cheder children, were honored with this mitzvah. Every child received several seforim to take into the Bais Medrash. During the entire journey to the Bais Medrash, the children would be accompanied by musicians. The rov would stand by the door of his home and bless the children that they merit to learn with these seforim b’nachas.