1. Today is “Shabbos Mevarchim Teves,” the Shabbos on which the month of Teves is blessed. This Shabbos also has a connection with the holiday of Chanukah. Since Rosh Chodesh Teves
always occurs within the Chanukah holiday, and Shabbos Mevarchim is closely related to Rosh Chodesh,
it is also linked to Chanukah.
Chanukah itself has a bond with Yud-Tes Kislev (which was celebrated on Tuesday of last week). The theme of Yud-Tes Kislev centers on the service of “Yefutzu Mayonosecha Chutza,” — spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus into the outer reaches. The term wellsprings refers to “Pnimiyus HaTorah,” Torah’s innermost secrets. Chanukah relates to the same concept. The lighting of the Chanukah candles is connected with the lighting of the Menorah in the Bais HaMikdash, which the commentators interpret as a symbol for “Pnimiyus HaTorah.” Along the same line of thought, Torah often refers to oil (with which Chanukah candles are generally lit) as a metaphor for Torah’s secrets of secrets. Wine, also, is used as a metaphor for the mystical secrets of Torah. Oil, floats on wine—transcends wine,-and therefore refers to a higher level. The fact that we light eight candles is an allusion to Torah’s transcendent aspects. In a well known responsa, the Rashba writes that the number seven refers to the entire continuum of time and the number eight to a level which transcends the limits of time. Thus we see that an intrinsic relationship exists between Yud-Tes Kislev (and the Shabbos which follows it) and Chanukah,
The above connection must be applied to our performance of Torah and Mitzvos and observance of Jewish customs. By “spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus into the outer reaches” with Simcha, the Mashiach will come,
2. Tonight is “Erev Chanukah” (the day before Chanukah). This day possesses an unique quality that surpasses the eve of other festivals, in that there is a direct link between it and the holiday of Chanukah itself. The lighting of Chanukah candles constitute the most important service of Chanukah. According to Halachah, Chanukah candles should be lit after sunset, before the evening begins. Thus, the first kindling of the Chanukah lights takes place “Erev Chanukah.” It is true that the Shulchan Aruch requires that before each Shabbos or Yom Tov time be added on from “the mundane to the holy” (the weekday to the Yom Tov or Shabbos). That time is usually considered secondary to the Shabbos itself. Here the central aspect of Chanukah itself, the Chanukah candles, are lit on the preceding day. This phenomenon stems from the fact that the Chanukah candles are lit to recall the miracle of the Menorah in the Bais HaMikdash. Since that Menorah had to be lit in the daytime, the Chanukah candles, are also lit then.
Thus we see how the day before Chanukah should be used to prepare for lighting Chanukah candles. Each Jew must make sure that he and all the other Jews he can reach are ready to light Chanukah candles. “Mivtza Chanukah,” the campaign to spread the lighting of Chanukah candles must be intensified and efforts be made to reach every Jew. Those efforts are most important before lighting the first candle—since, as Chassidus explains, the first candle includes all the eight days that follow. If you were unable to reach a Jew before the first night, it is still necessary to try to have him light on the later nights]
The Talmud says that the Chanukah candles must burn until “the feet of merchants are not seen in the street.” This expression has a symbolic meaning. The word used for merchants, “Tarmudei,” also refers to a nation of servants of King Solomon who revolted against him. Likewise, its letters, if rearranged, form the word “Mardus” which means rebellion. Chassidic thought explains that the term refers to the source of division and strife. Through lighting Chanukah candles a Jew causes “the feet of the Tarmudei not to be seen in the street” i.e. the elimination of the source of (conflict) the Yevonim (Greeks) from the world. Through lighting Chanukah candles we hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy, “I will cause the spirit of impurity to pass from the land” with the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days.
3. Mivtza Chanukah must reach every Jew. The responsibility of one Jew to help another Jew in his performance of mitzvos has its source in the highest aspects of his soul. Each Jew contains a spark of the soul of Moshe Rabbeinu, who the Talmud calls “A shepherd of the Jewish people.” Just as a shepherd is totally concerned with the welfare of his flock and gives over everything he has to them, so Moshe Rabbeinu gave over a spark of his soul to every Jew. Since he has that spark, every Jew possesses certain characteristics of a shepherd, as well. He must insure that other Jews have the opportunity to perform all the mitzvos and particularly those of present concern, the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles.
It is of particular importance to reach those Jews who are confined to hospitals and prisons, and to help them to light Chanukah candles. In many cases, the prison or hospital has a policy that forbids lighting candles and outside pressure is necessary to influence them to grant a Jew permission to perform the mitzvah. The confined may also have difficulty obtaining the candles, oil, etc. necessary.
We must also try to reach those Jews who are held in a greater prison,-those who are found behind the Iron Curtain. The Talmud says, “even an iron curtain cannot separate Israel from their Father in Heaven.” Efforts must be made to provide them with the opportunity to light candles. And through these activities, may we merit the fulfillment of the prophecy “G-d will light up my darkness” and witness an end to the Galus and the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days.
4. TRANSLATOR’S INTRODUCTION: Customarily, when finishing a Tractate of the Talmud, one elaborates and explains the final section in great detail. On Yud-Tes Kislev, the Rebbe Shlita completed the Tractate of Kiddushin. Among the concluding phrases of that Tractate is the statement “Rav Shimon ben Eliezer said, I never saw a deer collecting figs, a lion carrying loads, or a fox acting as a merchant, yet they receive their sustenance with no difficulty. Behold, they were created to serve me and I was created to serve my creator. Should not I also receive my sustenance without difficulty? However, I corrupted my behavior and deprived myself of income.” The Rebbe Shlita elaborated on that concept at great length. During this farbrengen he noted that there are scholars who object to such intensive study of “Aggadah,” the homiletic realm of Torah study. He explained that the Previous Rebbe had printed a pamphlet in rebuttal of this argument. Likewise, at other times, the Rebbe Shlita himself has dealt with this question in its totality. However, on this occasion, he said that he would like to focus on only one aspect of their argument, that “one should not study Aggadah because Torah study has to center on Halachic judgments. Aggadah deals with legends and homilies and is not directly related to our behavior.” The Rebbe Shlita answered that argument as follows:
The final source for Halachah is the Shulchan Aruch. In the preface to the Shulchan Aruch, Rav Yosef Caro writes that he intended to give over “Piskei Dinim”-practical judgments of Torah law. When you learn a Talmudic concept and try to derive a Halachic judgment, you must check in the Shulchan Aruch to see if your opinion concurs with Torah Law.
The Shulchan Aruch contains four sections. Within each section, there are hundreds of chapters and within each chapter, many laws. The first law of the first chapter of the first book reads, “Rav Yehudah ben Taima used to say, ‘Be as fierce as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and brave as a lion in fulfilling the will of our Father in Heaven.” Rav Yosef Caro carefully stressed the order used by the Shulchan Aruch. He made a careful choice concerning the law which would begin his texts. The law he chose is an Aggadic statement.
The Tur and the Alter Rebbe likewise begin their legal codification with Rav Yehudah’s statement. Their choice seems a clear refutation of the argument “Aggadah does not teach Halachah.” These giants of Torah—Rav Yosef Caro, the Tur, and the Alter Rebbe not only learned Halachah from Aggadah but used Aggadah as the first law and the foundation of their entire legal system.
The Rogachuver Gaon explains the same concept. He writes that everything in Torah, even a story narrated in the Talmud, effects Halachah. In his responsa and commentaries, he demonstrates how Torah judgments can be derived from seemingly homiletic points.
The same concept can be seen within the Written Torah itself. The Torah begins with “Bereishis,” the story of creation. Immediately, Rashi asks the question, “Should not Torah have begun with ‘HaChodesh Hazeh L’chem’ [Ex.12:27 ? There, the first Torah laws are mentioned. He answers by explaining that the stories related by the Torah before that point communicate an essential point-the right of the Jewish people to the-land of Israel. Until that point is established through seemingly homiletic, aggadah-like narrative, the Torah presents no explicit Halachic commandments.
- (Back to text) In some years, the month of Teves has two days of Rosh Chodesh Cas in this year) and in others only one. However, even when Rosh Chodesh is two days, both days fall within Chanukah.
- (Back to text) Shabbos Mevarchim and Rosh Chodesh are very closely related. On Shabbos Mevarchim, we bless the new month; furthermore, that blessing serves as a public proclamation that used to be made on Rosh Chodesh. During the time when the new moon was sanctified by the court upon the testimony of witnesses, that proclamation could only have taken place on Rosh Chodesh. Now, that the months are sanctified according to a pre-calculated calendar, the day of the new moon can be announced on Shabbos Mevarchim. Two advantages result from this change: 1) people know in advance when Rosh Chodesh will be, 2) since Shabbos is a day of public assembly, more people would be informed than could be on Rosh Chodesh.
- (Back to text) In the years that Shabbos Mevarchim Teves is itself one of the days of Chanukah, that connection is expressed even more forcefully.
- (Back to text) Chassidus, which brings a rational explanation for these “secrets of secrets,” represents an even higher level. Only because it possesses a superior quality can it bring these “secrets of secrets” into revelation.
- (Back to text) In certain aspects a custom surpasses the importance of a direct Torah command. Chassidus explains this in terms of the relationship between the daily wine offerings in the Bais HaMikdash, the water offering of the Sukkos holiday, and the “Hakkafos” of Simchas Torah. The wine offering was connected with “Simcha” (happiness)-as the Book of Psalms declares, “wine makes happy both G-d and man.” Even that happiness tho was surpassed by the celebration during the water offerings on Sukkos. Yet, in the Written Torah, (though the wine offerings are mentioned) no direct reference is made to the water offerings. As a reason, Chassidus tells us that the level of energy tapped by the water offerings is so high it could not be revealed within the context of the Written Torah. The “Hakkafos” are only a custom, as they are not even mentioned in the Oral Torah. However, there the Simcha is even greater than during the water offerings. Again, because of their transcendent source, they could not be revealed.
- (Back to text) The Alter Rebbe explains that the AriZal (Rabbi Yitzchok Luria) achieved his most sublime spiritual rungs through “Simcha shel mitzvah” (performing a mitzvah with true boy). If the AriZal needed Simcha to support his service of G-d,’ how much more so do we share that need.
- (Back to text) If for some reason (either because the previous day was Shabbos or for some personal reasons) candles were not lit on the preceding day, they can be lit at night. However, the Shulchan Aruch gives preference to lighting candles on the day before Chanukah.
- (Back to text) Concerning the extra time added on from the weekdays onto Shabbos, Torah scholars question whether these additions are considered a category of their own (and therefore more closely related to each other) or are they considered a part of the Shabbos on to which they were added.
- (Back to text) The Shulchan Aruch explains that the mitzvah of Chanukah candles also applies to Jewish women, since “they also had a part in the miracle.” Therefore, it is appropriate that they take part in Mivtza Chanukah and work to bring other Jews to light candles.
- (Back to text) To emphasize this point, Bais Shammai held that eight candles should be lit on the first day of Chanukah.
- (Back to text) A selection from the Talmud, Tractate Brochos, communicates the same concept. On the verse “all G-d asks is for you to fear him,” the Talmud asks, “is fear such a small thing?” and answers “for Moses, fear was an easy service.” Chassidic thought notes that the statement “all G-d asks” was not directed to Moses alone but rather concerned the entire Jewish people. However, since each Jew contains a spark of the soul of Moses, fear is an easy service for him as well. It becomes a matter of choice. If he really wants to, then he can accomplish this service.
- (Back to text) The statement was not intended to make us try to run like deer. Following the principle “Teach us by the example of the animals on the Earth,” the explanation is that just as a deer runs instinctively, a Jew should possess an instinct to carry out G-d’s will.
- (Back to text) Similarly the Ramah begins his addendum to the Shulchan Aruch with the verse, “I placed G-d before me always” and explains it using the Rambam’s commentary in Guide to the Perplexed. The same people who protest against learning Aggadah, would surely object using a verse from Psalms and The Guide, yet the Ramah chose to open with those sources.
- (Back to text) The totality of Yiddishkeit is connected with “Eretz Yisrael” (Land of Israel) since “out of Zion will come forth Torah and the word of G-d from Jerusalem.”