HaRav Moshe Meir Weiss

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Title: Facing Winter: Looking Back at Chanukah Lights

by Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
Dec 18, 2012


By Rabbi M

 oshe Meir Weiss


If you’re like me, you’re finding it hard to believe that Chanukah has already passed.  Weren’t we just dancing on Simchas Torah?  Didn’t we just unpack our children’s trunks and buy them school supplies?  Are we already heading towards Purim and Pesach?


But, as we all know, such is life.  And, it’s all the more reason why we should make an effort not to let such an important milestone as Chanukah pass us by without mining from it as much as we possibly can.


Here are some thoughts to take with us into the deep of winter.


As we reflect back on the Chanukah lights, we can ponder the question:  What is the value of teeny wicks in small pools of oil giving light with a mere life span of a couple of hours?  How can that hold a candle (pardon the pun) to the sophisticated light bulbs we have today with thousands of hours of usage?  How can we attach importance to the puny and unsteady illumination of these flickering wicks when compared to the brilliant glow of halogen and mercury-vapor lamps?


My friends, this is precisely the message of the Chanukah menorah.  Let us not fall into the trap of thinking that the light of knowledge of the new age is more brilliant than the glow of our ancestors.  While the illumination of technology emanating from the television and Internet is truly hypnotic, it pales into insignificance when compared with the ancient glow of our Torah wisdom.


All we have to do is look at society around us.  How one out of every two marriages ends in failure and disappointment.  How the institution of Family is becoming an extinct species and the attitudes of many of America’s youth are both scary and pitiful.  Why, just a few weeks ago, I accosted a young woman in the shop for smoking a cigarette at such a young age.  She answered me frankly that, “Well…she doesn’t want to become old anyway.”


Where have the sophisticated illuminations of global knowledge gotten the American society?  Much like the Syrian-Greeks at the time of Chanukah, the Internet surrounds people with all types of hedonistic ‘pleasures’ and distractions.  But,www.paybestwatch01.me it leads its adherents to the same fate as the Yevonim.  Namely, no lasting future but rather disappearance into oblivion.


So, when we, and our family, light the menorah together, we are reminding ourselves to look at life not in the American way but through the lenses of Torah.  So that when we go out to buy a dress, we don’t think, “Am I sheik?  Will I draw attention?”  Rather we will think, “Is there a sense of tznius,” and, “Will I attract my husband?”  As well, we will not allow ourselves to be consumed just with the pursuit of possessions and fun, but dedicate much of our time to our spouses, children, families, Torah and mitzvahs.  Indeed, this is what the Gemora means that, if the glow of the Chanukah candles is in our home, we will merit having Talmidei Chachamim.


Another lesson to embrace from Chanukah is the very message that the Sages made this holiday for.  As we said in the Al HaNissim liturgy, “They enacted these eight days to give thanks and praise to Your great Name.”  Chanukah is a drill in sharpening our national past time of showing thanks and appreciation to Hashem.  This is why we are known as Yehudim, the ‘People Who Give Thanks.’  The eight days of saying Hallel, chanting HaNeiros Halolu and singing Mo’etz Tzur are meant not just as a passing show of appreciation but also as a drill to hone our year-around skills of praising Hashem for the many gifts that He constantly gives to us.


In a famous Medrash, we are taught that one of the nefarious decrees of the Syrian-Greek’s went as follows.  “Kisvu lachem al karnei hashor, ‘ein li cheilek b’Elokei Yisroel’  --  Write upon the horns of an ox, ‘I do not have a portion of the G-d of Israel.’”  This is a very enigmatic decree.  One beautiful explanation is that, before the Gerber bottle, they used to fashion their baby bottles out of hallowed out horns of oxen.  Thus, the Yevonim accurately understood that the way to eradicate Judaism, chas v’Shalom, was to force feed the youth, the next generation, with atheistic beliefs.  I would like to propose another explanation.  The horn, as we know, also serves as a trumpet to celebrate ones successes and victories.  The Syrian-Greek’s decreed that, upon the instrument which we express our exultation, we should inscribe that the G-d of Israel has not part in it.  Thus, they were trying to strip us of the very essence of our Judaism, which is to credit the One Above for all our successes.


Chanukah is an expression of how they failed at this attempt and, indeed thankfully, we are still loyal to the sentiments of the verse, “Am zu yotzarti li, tehilosi yisapeiru  --  This nation I created for me to relate My Praises.”  And this is why Chanukah promotes so heavily the occupation of praising Hashem.


It therefore behooves us, as we look back on Chanukah, to take stock on how we express our thanks daily to our Creator.  Let’s try to be more thoughtful when we say our blessings.  Let’s, even occasionally, say the brochos a bit slower, for example, letting the words of bentching, ‘Hazon es haOlam kulo b’tuvo,’ roll off our tongues a bit more slowly.  When we open up our eyes and start the new day, say a Modeh Ani more meaningfully, thanking Hashem that we have a roof over our head, food to eat, and, if we are so fortunate, a spouse next to us, and children in the bedroom down the hall.  Let’s remember the sage advice of the Chovos haL’vovos, “Devorim she’rotse lehasmid boh, al tiftach boh  --  Things that we want to continue, let’s not take them for granted.”


And while we’re at it, sharpening our skills at appreciation, let’s remember at the same time not to take our spouses for granted.  This is an evil that is so easy to slip into.  If we are not careful, we can begin viewing them as an expected fixture in our home, much like the refrigerator or the bedroom dresser.


Let us pray that as we go deep into the winter, we absorb these timeless lessons and may the Lights of Chanukah bless our homes with their warmth and healthy glow until the coming of Moshiach, speedily and in our day.



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