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To dedicate this lesson
Translated by Hillel Fendel

Thoughts For Hanukka's Final Hours

One must always remember three questions; they must always guide his path and light his way, so that he will always take the straight path and not allow the trickery of his negative inclinations to confuse him. He must always be connected to and focused on the true objective.


Rabbi Yosef Nave

Tevet 2 5781
This year's Shabbat-Hanukka Torah portion was not Parashat Miketz, for a change, but was rather the one before it, Parashat Vayeshev. Vayeshev ends with "forgetting" – the Minister of Drinks totally forgot Yosef, the man who had just successfully interpreted his dream for him – while Miketz begins with the topic of "remembrance." That is, King Pharoah has a troublesome double-dream, which leads the Minister of Drinks to finally remember Yosef, who was then rushed to the royal palace to interpret the king's dream – and the rest is history.

But there is another allusion to remembrance in the beginning of Miketz. The Sage Chaim Menashe, of holy blessed memory, in his work Ahavat Chaim explains: "Miketz, spelled mem-kuf-tzadi, is an acronym for the three questions that a person is asked when he appears before the Heavenly Tribunal: "Did you engage in business dealings (masa v'matan) – in good faith and integrity? Did you set time (k'viut) for Torah study? Did you anticipate and look forward to Israel's Redemption (tzipita liy'shuah)?"

One must always remember these questions; they must always guide his path and light his way, so that he will always take the straight path and not allow the trickery of his negative inclinations to confuse him. He must always be connected to and focused on the true objective.

A Jew must accustom himself to remember G-d at all times and wherever he is, in fulfillment of shiviti Hashem, "I have placed G-d before me always" (Psalms 16,8). He must strive to sanctify His Blessed Name in all his daily dealings, set times for Torah study, and aspire to the great idea of working towards G-d's redemption of His people and world, via the Mashiah.

Rabbe Nachman of Breslev also explains the concept of "memory," in the beginning of Parashat Miketz: "We must carefully preserve our memory, so that we do not fall into forgetfulness, a type of cardiac arrest, death of the heart."

We are nearing the end of the Hanukka holiday – eight holy and very exalted days. According to many scholars, the candles that we light allude to "the candle of G-d" (Proverbs 20,27), "man's soul." Let us note that when a person passes from this world, his family members light a memorial candle to preserve his legacy and his presence. The candle as if declares: "True, his physicality is no longer with us, but his essence remains, his deeds are remembered."

The same with the person vis-à-vis himself. One is liable to fall into forgetfulness, the "death of his heart," by forgetting his very identity and essence. As King David writes, "I was forgotten like a heart forgets the dead" (Psalms 31,17), as one whose heart forgets his mission in the world and why he was created and what he is [supposed to be] doing here…

We are constantly engaged in the race of day-to-day life, while Hanukka seeks to give us a totally different message: "Sit by the candle lights, do no work for a half-hour as you gaze at them; stop and look at your inner light, your inner self. Think: Who am I? Where am I going from here? What is important to me in life?" This time-out helps us focus inward and heed our inner voice.

The "holy books" teach us that Hanukka, and especially the eighth night, are a continuation of the Days of Awe – Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur; they have equal sanctity and enable one to re-inscribe himself in the Book of the Righteous. It is a day of such heights that it can facilitate great achievements both spiritually and materially.

On this last day of Hanukka, we read, fittingly, of the offering brought on the eighth day of the Tabernacle dedication ceremony in the desert. It was brought by the head of the Tribe of Menashe, Gamliel ben Pdahtzur. All three names here are significant: Menashe comes from the same root as neshiyah, which is related to forgetting. As times goes by, a Jew is liable to reach a point where he forgets his Father in Heaven, or where he begins to think (with the help of his Evil Inclination) that Hashem has forgotten him. For this reason, Hanukka comes along, and on the eighth day, the offering is brought by Gamliel – which can be read as gam li el, "I too have G-d, a connection with the Creator – I don't want to forget Him, and I believe with perfect faith that He, too, did not forget me. I believe that I am still close to my Father above, and I have a genuine and eternal bond with Him, one that will never be broken." And this knowledge brings one redemption and salvation – Pdahtzur, "Hashem has redeemed."

Hanukka gives us the wonderful opportunity to recall the glorious moments of the Days of Awe, how we stood before G-d in repentance and striving for holiness, and our sincere intentions to remain on the path of Torah and good deeds. We must look at the Hanukka lights, and "use" them to bring upon ourselves a true remembrance of several important things: that we were hewn from the Throne of Glory; our high level, stemming from our holy forefathers; and that within us dwells a pure soul that wishes to walk before G-d in the lands of life.

We must utilize these remaining hours of Hanukka for prayer: "Pour out your heart like water, before G-d's countenance" (Lam. 2,19). And part of our Hanukka prayer is Hallel, Psalms 113-118 – in which we recite, "Please, G-d, save my soul" – the plea of our souls that pines to cleave to its Upper Source, for via these words we can reach remembrance: "For whenever I speak of him, I earnestly remember him" (Jeremiah 31,19).

We read last Shabbat about how Yosef HaTzaddik passed a very difficult test posed to him by the wife of Potiphar. The Torah tells us that he "refused" – Vay'ma'en. The letters of Vay'ma'en are an acronym for the words of the verse in Hallel, "and in G-d's name I will call: Please, G-d, save my soul" (so says the work HaLekach v'HaLibuv). For only via prayer to Hashem can a person succeed in resisting a sin that comes his way.

And especially now when we are in the midst of the long winter nights, we must take with us the lights of Hanukka, to overcome and strive in prayer – for only by pouring out our hearts to Hashem, as above, can there be something to hold on to so that we may cleave to G-d and remember the kingdom of G-d.
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