This week’s music: https://youtu.be/UWOz_gWJXP4
With each holiday we are blessed to receive a boost of “shefa,” Godly influence, which helps us intensify our connection to that period of time in the year. Prior to Rosh Hashannah we get the power to do “teshuvah,” return to Hashem, Sukkot brings us the vehicle to celebrate and be “bsimchah,” joyful, while Pesach opens the gates for us to experience true freedom.
These powers are not simply relegated to those specific times of year, but rather are the spiritual boosts to help us carry those traits into our lives for the entire year. Similarly, on Chanukah God sends us “Light.” This light offers us the clarity to see what is truly going on in our worlds, individually and collectively. It is our responsibility to see the light, bring it into our homes, harness that light, vision and clarity to carry on through the year.
I believe that the Shabbat which immediately follows Chanukah, Parshat Vayigash offers us an excellent opportunity to begin to bring the light into our lives. One reason is because Chanukah and Shabbat have so much in common. Three of the essential aspects of Chanukah are, “emunah,” belief and faith, “Ohr,” light and “chidush,” renewal. “Emunah” was clearly displayed by the Chashmonaim as their leader Matityahu called out when he went to war, “Mi La’Hahsem elai,” whoever is with God be with me. The “emunah” of the nation was both a belief on the intellectual or “machahsavah,” thought process, as well as a deeper sense of faith in their hearts and souls. (reference to the teaching of Slonimer Rebbe)
On Shabbat we too have a unique opportunity to connect with our Creator in a similar way. “V’shamru B’nai Yisrael et Ha’Shabbat” (Shmot 31.16). Hashem says to Moshe Rabbenu, and the B’nai Yisrael shall keep the Shabbat. The moment I keep the Shabbat I am connecting to my Creator. I am aware that I have been offered by God the opportunity to safeguard the Shabbat. On an even deeper level, I have received the gift of Shabbat from Hashem and therefore I cherish it so that I can strengthen my unique personal spiritual relationship with my Creator which is available to me on this special day, the Holy day of Shabbat. I have an opportunity to bring more Godliness into my life.
On Chanukah we look to bring more light into our lives. We specifically light the candles in our home, as the Talmud teaches us, what is Chanukah? “ner ish ubaito,” the candle to be lit by each man and his home (Shabbat 21.2). We actualize our belief and faith by the action of lighting in our home with our family. Similarly, on Friday night our holy wives and daughters bring the light of peace into our homes by kindling the Shabbat candles.
The third aspect, “chidush,” renewal, is the very foundation of Shabbat. Without Shabbat in creation, there would not have been a week following. The 6 days of creation ended, but the inclusion of Shabbat meant we would have the strength to continue on. This gave “Adam harishon,” the first man, the light and hope of knowing that he had a future. During the time of the Chashmonaim, the ruling Greeks tried to take away our hope and acts of renewal by first and foremost forbidding three mitzvot- Shabbat, Brit Milah and the celebration of Rosh Chodesh, the new moon. All three of these mitvzvot represent renewal and the clarity of belief that God is, “ha’mechadesh b’tuvo b’chol yom tamid ma’aseh bereshit, Hashem is creating a new every day of our lives for an eternity. This opens the gates for us to have faith that each of us receives an opportunity for a new start every day. This special relationship with Hashem is what they sought to take away from us. This special relationship that we can renew daily and especially strength and renew every Shabbat.
So this week, when lighting the candles, when we see that light in our homes, when the beginning of Shabbat is signaled, we can pray for more light, more clarity and more connection to take with us as a guiding force for our entire life.
In this week’s Torah portion of “Vayigash,” Reb Levi Yitzchak and The Sefat Emet both teach that Yosef Hatazadik saw that his brother Yehudah was finally willing to confront the Godliness facing him daily, accept his true responsibility as king and leader of B’nai Yisrael. Only then was Yosef able to reveal his true identity (Bereshit 45.1-8). Only when he knew that he future of “Am Yisrae” l would be in God fearing hands.
Perhaps we all need to use the light of Chanukah and Shabbat to see who we really are, to accept that in a world which is so empty of true leaders, that we need, as Reb Shlomo taught us, to all be “little Rebbes’” and accept leadership roles within our own personal worlds in order to do the fixing which we each need to do to fulfill our specific purpose that each of us was sent here to do.