What is the proper preparation for Chanukah?
- A lot of prayer and Hisbodedus, to beg Hashem that we should merit that the light of Chanukah should shine upon us. We should try to “persuade” Him that even though we don’t deserve it, on the contrary, since the essence of Chanukah is to shine the light below… There are some wonderful prayers in Likutei Teffilos about Chanukah.
- To learn the Halachos of Chanukah. Studying the Halachos of a specific holiday creates a wonderful vessel in which to contain the light of that holiday. This is especially so concerning Chanukah, as the Rebbe teaches in Likutei Moharan II 2 that the way to come close to Hashem and to recognize His kindness through studying Halachah radiates on Chanukah. It is therefore fitting to learn Halachos and to keep in mind how Hashem is speaking to you and revealing His will, what He wants from you. He wants you to kindle a light, in a specific way, at a specific time and place, according to the rules of Halachah. This type of learning can really liven someone up, when he realizes that the Almighty is taking an interest in every detail of his life, and He cares about his small Chanukah light with all of its details.
- Studying the works of the Tzaddikim about Chanukah. There are those who enjoy reading and going through many different teachings from the Tzaddikim about Chanukah, and there are others who prefer to concentrate on one or two points. Everyone according to his abilities. But the main thing is to take seriously the Avodah of filling one’s mind with significant thoughts about the holiday, and to thereby awaken the emotions. Some examples of what to learn are Likutei Moharan 14, 54. II 2, and II 7. Likutei Halachos discusses Chanukah in many places, and they are all condensed into “Otzar HaYirah” in the entry about Chanukah. Someone who wants to understand a little about the mediations of the Ar”i on Chanukah in the spirit of Avodas Hashem should see Hilchos Kilai Behemah 4.
There are many explanations about the essence of Chanukah, but what is the practical Avodah of Chanukah beyond just kindling a light?
- “The days of Chanukah are days of thanking Hashem, as it’s written, ‘They established the days of Chanukah to thank and praise.” Chazal set aside that these days should have the power to help us renew ourselves in our feeling close to Hashem even during painful times. This is through the Rebbe’s advice of always thanking Hashem and to look out for how Hashem is always being good to us, despite all our lacks and difficulties. The more we will involve ourselves in thanking Hashem throughout Chanukah, the more we will truly be able to live with it throughout the whole year.
When discussing thanking Hashem, many people imagine that thanking is just sort of intellectual recognition, to pay attention to Hashem’s kindness and to speak about it. Even though that this is also true, but we must also be practically involved in thanking Hashem, to simply open our mouths and thank Hashem, and to detail before Him all of His kindness. We must spend time every day alone with Hashem, and to thank Him for everything, especially about the small kindnesses within the constraints, to see how Hashem is literally with him throughout all of our falls. We should also put more effort into Pesukei D’Zimra and Hallel and Berachos.
- As we said, that on Chanukah there is a special illumination granted to see the inner idea of Halachos, how we can come close to Hashem through each Halachah. Therefore it would be good to make more time for learning Halachah during these holy days.
- The main thing is during the time of kindling the Chanukah lights when a great light is shining on us. This light can teach us how to take ourselves out of every fall and all types of disappointments, and to survive all the waves and crises and be closer to Hashem throughout it. It’s therefore very fitting to sit by the Chanukah lights for a half hour or more and to sing the Zemiros and to try to open op our hearts to Hashem through them.
It’s possible to sit and look at the lights and to think about them. Bring up thoughts of Emunah, how these lights which we are lighting are the lights which shine with the light hidden since the Six Days of Bereishis, and they have come into my house, it’s not just a flame on a wick, it’s a great and awesome light which constricted itself into this little flame. You can start talking to Hashem from these thoughts, words of thanks, requests and prayers. Thus you can connect to the inner light of the holiday.
If you have learnt something from the Tzaddikim about Chanukah, then is should certainly be easier for you. You will have what to think about when you look at the flame, and you believe that what you’ve learnt comes down into this little cup.
For example, if you’ve learnt the general idea of Chanukah, which is that the Tzaddikim shine Hashem’s light now to the very low places, you can encourage yourself while looking at the flames that Hashem is revealing Himself to me how He is with me. You can then talk to Hashem about how you’ve fallen so low, and ask Hashem to help you in the merit of the light of Chanukah that a spirit of renewal should enter your heart, a spirit of true encouragement to cleave to Hashem more and more, and to merit coming close to the light of the Tzaddikim.