Holy Days of Chanukah – 1
The holy days of Chanukah are drawing nearer and it is fitting to begin preparing ourselves with the teachings of the Tzaddikim that pertain to them. In the coming weeks we will try to explain the general concept of the famous lesson: “The Days of Chanukah” (Likutey Tinyana 2) about which Reb Nosson exclaimed: “We must go with this torah” (Aleh Le’trufah 20). [This Lesson is extremely deep, we have explained only the main points, and anyone who wishes to explore it further is encouraged to study it inside.]
The days of Chanukah are days of thanksgiving, as is written: “they fixed these eight days of Chanukah for praise and thanksgiving”. Days of thanksgiving are an aspect of the delight of the world to come, for this is the main delight of the world to come, to thank and praise His Holy Great name, blessed be He, and to know Him, for the more we know and recognize Him, the closer we are to Him, blessed be He.
The main delight of the world to come, which we so greatly hope for, is that the mind and heart should be ignited with a tremendous illumination of knowledge of Hashem to the extent that we sing in thanks and praise to His great name until we merit through this to be truly close to Him. There is no greater pleasure than this – when the da’as (holy intellect) and dveikus ha’leiv (deep cleaving of the heart to Hashem) are ignited to understand the true meaning of ‘being close to Hashem’.
In this world there are days when the harsh judgments are sweetened, when darkness is dispelled and the wondrous ways of Hashem are revealed. Then a new illumination of the mind is born, similar to that which will be in the future, and we open our mouths in song and praise and merit to taste the awesome sweetness of closeness to Hashem. This is the light that shines forth on Shabbos and Yom Tov.
However, in contrast to this, there are days when a person experiences obstacles, confusion, suffering and emotional pain regarding both the needs of the body and those of the soul; the heart is terribly pressured and one cannot arouse his da’as to enliven himself with the knowledge that he is close to Hashem. This is the time of the main battle, to transform the sorrow and anguish into happiness and joy, to exert oneself greatly to encourage oneself specifically at a time of distress. This applies both in regards to physical distress – to find some aspect of how Hashem helped him even in the suffering that at least it should not be any worse, and both in regards to spiritual distress – to find some good points in oneself despite all the falls. Until one feels the kindness and wonders of Hashem and bursts forth in praise and thanks, thereby opening his heart to know how he is close to Hashem even from the depths of hell and amidst the difficulties.
This is the main topic of the lesson, to reveal that the holy days of Chanukah are the most auspicious time to transform the days of winter and darkness into ‘days’ of thanksgiving, to traverse the days of anguish the same way one would traverse a day in which he attained a fortune of wealth – The days of Chanukah are days of thanksgiving, as is written: “they fixed these eight days of Chanukah for praise and thanksgiving”, for in these days the sages “fixed” the root from which one can draw strength to encourage himself and seek out a way not to be drawn after the distress.
All the sacrifices will be nullified except for the Korban Todah (thanksgiving offering), for nothing will remain in the future besides gratitude and thanksgiving.
The Korban Todah is the only offering which is accompanied by a mincha-offering of chametz (leavened bread). This is because the sparking of the mind with recognition of the greatness of Hashem occurs when thanksgiving is revealed from within a situation of chametz and darkness. This is what will take place in the future and for this reason the Korban Todah will not be nullified. With the power of Chanukah we must strengthen ourselves to draw near to thanksgiving even while we are still in the darkness of exile.
…And the aspect of thanksgiving, which is the delight of the world to come, is an aspect of Halachos (the laws of the Torah), for the laws which we merit to learn, specifically one who merits to formulate novelties in them, are an aspect of the delight of the world to come, an aspect of [what the sages taught]: “anyone who studies halachos every day is guaranteed that he has a place in the world to come.”
Halacha is from the wondrous kindnesses of Hashem, who revealed to us paths and ways in every aspect of life how we can create a vessel to be close to Him from within the darkness. So too, through the study of Halacha, one can draw near to Him.
This is our main avodah (divine service), to believe in general that the fulfillment of every mitzvah makes us close to Hashem. So too in specifics, every mitzvah and halacha has a deeper meaning and a way in which specifically through this mitzvah one can come closer to Hashem, as we see in Likutey Halachos where Reb Nosson reveals the inner divine service contained in the mitzvos.
When a person involves himself in the study and clarification of the laws, whether pertaining to the parameters of what is forbidden and what is permitted, or the study of the practical ways of serving Hashem, how to conduct oneself properly and with good character traits; if this is done with a faith and contemplation of how this halacha is what Hashem desires of him, in order to draw close to Him, through this one can merit to a sparking illumination of holy intellect that he is truly close and near to Hashem – a taste of the thanksgiving that will be in the future. Especially one who merits innovating novelties in Halacha, to uncover the will of Hashem in a new situation that has not yet been clarified in halacha, through this is revealed a new da’as of how to draw near to Hashem through another thing in the world.
The kindness of Hashem is an aspect of Halachos, as the sages taught: “one who prevents his student from apprenticing him is as if he withholds from him Chesed (kindess).”
When a wise man allows a student to be an apprentice to him and to learn from him the exact ways of clarifying the law, through this he bestows kindness upon the student. On a deeper level a great piece of advice can be understood from this – that we need to be “apprentices” by Tzaddikim and to learn from them how to view the halachos as Hashem’s kindness, to fulfill them with joy and to believe that every mitzvah and halacha is what Hashem desires from me now in order to draw close to him. Through this one can merit to transform the days of suffering into days of thanksgiving and kindness.
This is what is said regarding King David: “and Hashem is with him”, upon which the sages expounded: “that the law is in accordance with him”. For regarding King David the verse states “the faithful kindnesses of David” – meaning, he involved himself in Halacha from amidst faith that every Halacha is kindness and that through it “Hashem is with him”. This is how the psalm of “hodu La’Shem Ki Tov (Praise Hashem for He is good)” (Tehillim 107) concludes: “He who is wise will fulfill these [laws] and they will contemplate the kindness of Hashem” – to study the laws together with contemplation of the kindness of Hashem that they contain, that through them it is possible to come close to Hashem from every place.