Making Chanukah A Yom Tov As intended By Our Chachomim
Excerpts from the N’shei of Hillburn’s Monthly Get Together
Excerpts from the N’shei of Hillburn’s Monthly Get Together
Chanukah is considered by many people to be an “easy” Yom Tov. There doesn’t seem to be any intense message, or behavior change required. Instead, families get together, and people are allowed to come home from work, or school, earlier than they do the rest of the year. It involves little preparation by the family, Davening isn’t significantly longer, and it doesn’t have significant costs.
Presumably, the Chachomim had more in mind when they instituted Chanukah as a Yom Tov. With regard to Chol Hamoed, Rav Abba Bar Mamol said that if he could, he’d abolish Chol Hamoed. Chol Hamoed was for people to use their time free of work to get closer to Hashem. (As a side note, wives should allow their husbands to “escape” for a few hours every day during Chol Hamoed, once they’ve helped with the Chol Hamoed trips.) Instead, many people use Chol Hamoed to have parties and act inappropriatly. The risk of “wasting” Chol Hamoed, exists with all Yomim Tovim. Therefore, in order to give more meaning to Chanukah, I’d like to offer three thoughts to help make Chanukah a Yom Tov in which people can grow spiritually:
1) “Things” matter and some things matter enough to fight for them, and therefore the Chashmonoim fought for Hashem. Before I continue on this theme, I must caution everyone against becoming a zealot. Some people are challenged when they have to speak, and others are challenged not to speak when they shouldn’t. (Misplaced zealousness is as dangerous as not speaking when people should). In many instances people should limit their zealousness to alerting others who are entrusted to respond to specific situations.) Zealots who aren’t guided by a Rebbi, or advisor, are nothing more than troublemakers. Stay away from them.
The sin of the Eigal (golden calf) was committed by 1/2% of the total population, 3,000 of the 600,000. The vast majority of the people knew that what was taking place was wrong, but they stood by silently. The story of Chanukah also involved a silent majority who stood on the side. A Tosefta says that hatred is a stronger emotion than love. People who serve Hashem may not be willing to become involved in correcting a wrong, such as the Eigal, Greek influence or, on a personal level, supporting a Rav who’s being mistreated, as much as those that hate these things. However, when it’s necessary, it’s the “job” of those who serve Hashem to take a stand.
All people have their personal lists of things that matter to them. I’m hoping that people have more on their lists than the basics such as health, personal safety, food and shelter. Chinuch is important to many parents, but will they take a stand when their children’s Chinuch is at risk? Will they work fewer hours to help their children who need extra attention? Will fathers give up a daily Shiur? Will families switch Shuls?
There are many other things on which people have to take a stand. Will they allow a derogatory comment about our Gedolim to go unanswered? Will they interrupt a meeting to Daven Mincha? While there may be some areas that are more important and on which people have to take a stand, people who don’t take a stand on anything, must definitely reconsider their personal beliefs, and character.
2) After the Chashmonoim won the battle of Chanukah, they relentlessly searched for pure oil that was not defiled by the Greeks. Why was this necessary? According to Halacha, non-pure oil can be used when pure oil isn’t available.
If something really matters to people, they would use whatever means are available, for them to succeed. The Chashmonoim set out to defeat the Greek army. They would’ve had one of two motives. The first would be national freedom. The second would be for the name of Hashem. How would people know which was their motive? More importantly, how would they be certain which was their true motive?
The only way to know what was their true motive, was by seeing whether they completed their tasks. Ridding Eretz Yisroel of the Greeks, and compromising on their service to Hashem, would define national freedom as the most important to them. Doing only 98% of what they first set out to do, would be a sign that they lacked true caring for the name of Hashem. Therefore, they searched for oil until they found it. Their pure motive was the reason Hashem gave them the opportunity to find it.
Many people believe that they care about things that they “claim” are important to them. This may be true, but if they truly care, they’d succeed in achieving them, or try until it was too late to achieve them. Nevertheless, as important as it is to complete what people set out to do, it’s just as important to make certain that while they’re completing their goals, they pay equal attention to the details of the task. Did they giftwrap a gift that they brought for an ill person. If they had to apologize to someone, did they do it sincerely? If they attended each learning class that they committed to attend, did they also participate?
3) The following lesson is simple, but is too often overlooked. People should be more thankful to Hashem, than they usually are. A friend of mine asked Rav Dovid Feinstein, Shlit”a, what else he should do when he makes a Seudas Ho’do’o, a party to thank Hashem for his son’s recovery from a life threatening illness. He suggested to Rav Feinstein the possibility of also making a Siyum, or undertaking a community project. Rav Dovid responded that he should only make the Seudah. A simple thank you to Hashem, without distractions is the best thank you that people can offer. Most people are too busy and distracted to say thank you. Even when they aren’t too busy, they’re often uncomfortable in saying it, and look for distractions.
Chanukah is a miracle that took place several thousand years ago. That’s a long time ago. Nevertheless, its ripple effect continues to this day. Chanukah changed the course of world history and, more importantly, Jewish history. Do we believe that our lifestyle makes us better people? Do we believe that it increases the quality of our lives? Would we want to live a mindless existence? Living in Hillburn, I’ve seen people whose lives focus on their lawns, and little more than that. I’m convinced that it’s almost impossible to understand what a meaningful life is, if one is outside of Klal Yisroel.
Although we never personally saw the miracle that took place, we can experience it through our Seforim, and retell it to ourselves, and family, in a manner that makes it relevant. Doing this is the responsibility of every person who celebrates Chanukah.
Wishing everyone a meaningful Chanukah experience.