Chanukah Finale

Friday, 15 December, 2023 - 3:25 am

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By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

As I was sitting at the seventh candle of the Menorah on Wednesday night, I felt optimistic and invigorated.

Seven lights of miracles burning brightly. Seven is a wholesome number.

Seven are the days of the week.

A complete cycle. Including six workdays and Shabbat.

The pattern and rhythm of life can be summed up by those seven days.

Having all seven lights of the Menorah kindled, symbolizes a fully motivated life. Replacing a ‘dreary’ Wednesday to be an inspired one. Reframing ‘Monday morning back to work blues’ with an excitement to resume making your contribution to Hashem’s world.

The menorah filled with its seven lights, in the context of living and inspired and illuminated life, is a goal worth pursuing.

But its not a stopping point.

It’s like a ‘Cape Canaveral’ launching pad.

For the next day. The 8th light of Chanuka.

If seven is the days of the week. The cycle of nature.

Eight is transcendent of the days of the week. The infinite leap beyond nature.

In the seven day cycle, Sunday is day one of week two.

On Chanuka, day eight, is not the first day of the second week of Chanuka.

Day eight of Chanuka, when the eight lights of the Menorah burn brightly, is an expression of the miraculous energy of Chanuka in full view.

In its very essence, Chanuka is an eight-day holiday. Starting from the very first moment of day one, Chanuka is a supernatural revelation of G-d’s presence here on physical earth.

Chanuka is all about miracles.

The miraculous victory of the few against the many and the weak against the mighty.

The oil that naturally could be alight for one day and stayed alight for eight full days.

These are supernatural occurrences that expose Hashem’s presence in the world.

Today on the eighth day of Chanuka we get to see it in full view.

Eight lights shine brightly in the millions of Menorahs that span the globe.

They call out to us with a reassuring confidence.

G-d, the Master of the universe made miracles in the time of the Maccabees and He makes miracles in our times as well.

The message being beamed out to the world is this:

Even though the world is dark. And even when the darkness has intensified,

Believe in the impossible . Believe that G-d can miraculously intervene.

In times like our current moment of history where there is fear, and uncertainty, the eight lights of Chanuka stand there proudly and reassuringly and proclaim:

Believe in the light of G-d. The light of holiness, goodness, kindness and morality that has the supernatural powers necessary to banish the darkness.

Let me share a Kabbalistic secret with you.

The lights of Chanukah symbolize not just the dispelling of darkness, they proclaim the incredible power of G-d to transform the darkness into light.

The darkness itself will shine.

Because deep down at its source, darkness is a creation of G-d as well. And once the real ‘game plan’ of Hashem is revealed, the darkness too will shine.

Think of it this way.

In the battle of Chanukah, the Greek armies had to be vanquished.

In the ultimate perfected world, when Mashiach comes, the legions of opposition will in a transformative reversal, become support staff to the forces of light.

This is our ultimate and most fervent wish and goal.

At one of our Menorah lightings, I wished an elderly Israeli man, Happy Chanuka. He sighed and told me ‘How can we say Chag Sameach this year when Am Yisrael is in such a difficult situation. Our soldiers are fighting valiantly. Tragically too many have fallen. Our hostages are still removed from their families and loved ones’. So many are wounded. He suggested that we say ‘Chag’ without adding ‘Sameach’.

I understood the feeling he was trying to convey.

Our son Efraim shared a similar sentiment that he heard while he and a friend went door knocking in Netanyah to offer people menorahs and candles. At one home, an elderly woman opened the door and when asked if she had a menorah and candles, she responded that this year although it’s the sixth night of Chanuka they were not going to celebrate Chanukah. After the horrible massacre of October 7th, and with our soldiers on the battlefield, she and her husband can’t bring themselves to celebrate Chanukah.

Efraim and his friend didn’t let the matter rest. With the youthful exuberance of eighteen-year-olds, they asked, begged, cajoled and pleaded that they be allowed to come in and light a menorah with this couple.

Finally, Efraim said, ‘there are so many of our soldiers in Gaza who would love to light the Menorah but can’t as they are in the midst of their work, do it for them’. To this the woman relented and invited them into the home.

There they met the husband. He too tried to resist but his wife had already given the green light so to speak.

The yeshiva bachurs kindled the menorah and then did a heartfelt joyous dance.

The couple was deeply touched and joined in the singing with tears in their eyes. Their hearts were warmed by the flames of Chanuka and the deep caring they felt from the hearts of their fellow young Jews who didn’t give up in trying to get them to do the mitzvah of Chanuka.

They found out which rabbi had recruited them to do the house visitations and they called him to thank him.

‘In our building there are other religious Jews, some build Sukkot during Sukkot and other religious observances, but we are not religious, so we haven’t ever participated. This boy who came all the way from Thailand and wouldn’t take no for an answer, stood there at the door full of concern for us, insisting that we should bring some light into our home and heart, this stirred me and touched and inspired me. Thank you so much for sending those wonderful boys’.

Think of it this way.

Have you ever been so hungry that you have no power or strength or even desire to eat?

Or have you seen a person with high fever who doesn’t feel like taking medication to reduce the fever.

When G-d forbid someone gets so famished they may not even have the willpower to go and get themselves food. With very high fever there may not even be strength to take necessary mediation,

Yet of course, the thing they must do Is eat, and that will give them power to be able to function. It is critical that they take appropriate medication to fight the fever.

Lighting the menorah and rejoicing on Chanuka is like oxygen and food for the Jewish people. It is like vitamins and medication. Yes, we are in a difficult, extraordinarily challenging time, but that is why we must no just celebrate Chanuka, we must celebrate it even more.

We need the miracles of Hashem now more than ever before.

And today, the eighth day, this is the day when the miracle is strongest.

In a literal way, back then in the first Chanukah when the candles were still burning atter eight full days, this was the day that the miracle was most evident and strongest.

My dear friends, let us keep the miracles flowing even as Chanuka comes to its grand conclusion.

An incredible way to bring light into the world is by giving tzedakah.

It is a fundamental Jewish tradition to have a box in your home, a tzedakah box, a tzedakah pushka, a kupat tzedakah, that you put money into on a daily or several-times-daily basis.

It can be given to to any needy person or any worthy cause. You choose where to give it.

Just like eating when you have no strength to eat, giving when you think you don’t even have enough for yourself, (even a very small coin is an act of giving) invites the blessings of G-d’s giving into your life. leaving your own self-preoccupation to think of others, spreads light and invites miracles into your life.

The act of giving tzedakah is transformational.

The way the Rebbe put it. Even if you use credit cards and checks, it is so holy to designate a kupat tzedakah pushka/box for giving ‘tangible’ money with your very own hands. Hands are best used by giving and sharing.

May we merit the ultimate transformational and peaceful light of Mashiach and merit to kindle the Menorah in the Bet Hamikdash, NOW.

Happy Chanuka

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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