On Sunday evening, November 29, Chazaq and TorahAnytime hosted a live stream event with Rabbi Yisroel Majeski, well-known dynamic speaker, and Rabbi Chanan Gordon, a famous speaker, on preparing for Chanukah.
Rabbi Majeski shared that we need to prepare ahead to get everything we can out of a yom tov. “In a world of darkness, we’re all searching for light. In a world of questions, we’re all looking for answers.” He taught that Parshas VaYishlach contains the secret to Chanukah. Yaakov is preparing for his fight with Eisav – the fight of a lifetime. The pasuk says that he takes a break and starts fighting with an individual until the morning. This person hits his thigh and he is bruised. Then he says that it’s time to go. Yaakov requests a brachah and he changes Yaakov’s name to Yisrael.
Rashi teaches that the reason Yaakov was alone at this point was that he went back to get some jugs he’d left behind. The person he fought, according to Rashi, was the Angel of Eisav. So, Rabbi Majeski posed the following questions: Why is Yaakov going back for a small jug? Secondly, why now at this point does the Angel of Eisav fight with him?
He then spoke about a halachah of Chanukah that if a person builds up the oil and lights it and it right away is extinguished, he doesn’t have to relight it. Why isn’t he obligated to relight it? Also, the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash had seven bars. Why is the mitzvah technically that you only have to light one candle per night? If the miracle occurred with seven candles, why don’t we light all seven each night?
Rabbi Majeski then shared a story of a wealthy man who went to Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev with a question. He shared that he is afraid Hashem will take away his fortune because of the sins he commits. The rabbi responded with three questions: “Do you say Sh’ma? Do you put on t’filin? Do you eat only kosher? If you only said one Sh’ma once in your lifetime, you deserve all this wealth. The value of one Sh’ma is that you created something in Heaven for all of humanity.”
Rabbi Majeski taught: “We don’t appreciate what we do that is right.” We can list what we do that’s wrong. “Do we look at ourselves as a success in the things we do, in fact, do?”
The miracle of Chanukah is in the hands of the small. A small Jewish army defeated the huge Syrian-Greek army. The big and powerful fell into the hands of the weak. Don’t look at what you think is success. You can look at others and surmise that they do so much, they’re so great. “Hashem says you have to value what you do.”
He noted that the biggest thing that holds people back from success in yeshivah is that they don’t appreciate what they accomplish. They always want more. Of course, it’s important to set goals and strive higher, but the yeitzer ha’ra sends us negative messages and tells us how bad we are. “Not one person became better by saying how bad he is.” These messages are from the yeitzer ha’ra and we must stifle them. They cause despair. “It’s important to have goals, but not at the expense of appreciating what you did do.” Each mitzvah is so valuable.
Hashem demonstrated on Chanukah that one small group of people can change everything. “One small jug of oil causes millions to light up the world. When everything looks dark and you can’t see the sun, you can see that little bit in you.” The miracle of the oil came from the leftovers in that jug that Yaakov brought back.
He added that children need love most when they deserve it the least. On Chanukah, we deserved the miracle the least.
Yaakov is looking for those jugs. He is thinking that, yes, I’m fighting for the life of my family but there are little things I have to have before I fight big. That oil in the jug that Yaakov poured on the stone to bring korbanos: the same jug was used to anoint the kohanim, and it was the same jug the Chashmona’im found. When Yaakov returned for the little jug, that is when the yeitzer ha’ra fought him.
Rav Avigdor Miller taught that when we thank Hashem for each little thing, then we receive so much more. Rabbi Majeski explained that the reason we don’t relight the candle, according to Chazal, is that we fulfilled our obligation and we are not obligated to finish. We have to do what we can, and then Hashem will help us the rest of the way.
Though the miracle was on seven candles, the mitzvah is on one to represent that one little jug is all you need. One small step will take you so far. Who knows where you will go after that?
He also added that the candles must be separate and cannot touch one another. Every person is his or her own candle, and we don’t need to try to be someone else. “Be yourself. Don’t live someone else’s life. Be your own neir.”
The Greek ideal was perfection. They couldn’t handle mistakes. The Jewish way is not like that. The name Yisrael means you are a fighter. You went and fought Eisav. You got bruised but you fought. He urged everyone to spend time appreciating what he is doing right. Spend one minute a day on this. “Appreciate our light.”
Next, Rabbi Chanan Gordon stated that “Chanukah is the time we light up our lives and our year.” He began by noting how the year 2020 has been a time of tremendous stress and anxiety. The Torah perspective is that we prepare for Chanukah to find light in the tunnel. We don’t wait for the light at the end of the tunnel.
He then took the first three letters of Chazaq and used them to teach important concepts about Chanukah. “C” in Chazaq stands for choice. The miracles of Chanukah involved a choice. He spoke about perspective. We can think of the idea that we see the world through a keyhole, as it were, so we cannot see the whole vast Divine picture. As mortals, we see a fraction of the entire prism of the world. “Let’s choose to recalibrate our perspective. We cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose our attitude.”
A Torah definition of success is illustrated by Yosef. He was described as successful not when he was viceroy of Egypt but when he was a slave to Potifar and when he was in prison. In both cases, he was successful because of his attitude. He realized that everything happens for the good. He knew how much Hashem loved Him and he never despaired.
We need to choose how we look at failure. He cited examples of many famous people who were thrown extremely discouraging predictions but they rose above those and succeeded. When it says that a tzadik falls seven times, it is because he falls seven times that he learns to flex his muscles. This helps him to reach his potential. Avraham became who he was supposed to become after the ten tests. “As long as we don’t define ourselves as failures, then we haven’t failed. We must never lose hope in ourselves. These failures can be used as stepping-stones for success.”
Next he spoke about the letter “h” in Chazaq. How do we respond to adversity? This mageifah has continued for almost a year. He shared a mashal of boiling carrots in one pot, an egg in another, and coffee beans in a third pot. The carrots fall apart in hot water. We as Jews never give up. We are not allowed to despair. The egg becomes hardened and closed off. Neither of these two is the correct response. The coffee beans, on the other hand, take the situation of the hot boiling water and change into a beautiful aroma of coffee. “The role of the Jew as we come to the end of this year is to take the story of Chanukah – take stumbling blocks – and turn them into stepping-stones. This way we can be role models for our family, friends, and the world.”
He then shared that the “a” in Chazaq, stands for the Almighty. People have a misconception of the Almighty as an old wise man who wants to punish. This is totally wrong. Hashem loves us more than we can fathom. He is a loving father. Any pain we receive has the goal to make us be the greatest person we can be. It’s not a punishment. We are an am simchah. We have to know that Hashem is rooting for us and He wants our success. “Each of us is a diamond in the rough. Each of us has a light that will ignite the world that is dark.”
By Susie Garber