On Sunday, December 5, Zos Chanukah, Chazaq and Mikvah USA hosted an incredible night of inspiration for women with two dynamic speakers. First, Rebbetzin Amit Yaghoubi, well-known inspirational speaker, shared a big thank you to Chazaq for all they do in every area of Jewish society. They are interested in helping every Jew. “Chazaq has big goals.” She thanked Mikvah USA for providing the framework to enable people to keep the mitzvah of mikvah. “This is what the Jewish family is – it is family purity.”
She pointed out that we are coming out of Chanukah, and Hashem is telling us that the more light you put into the world, the more light will be reflected back at you.” She explained that “the more I can shine out to others, the choices I make can change the environment around me.” That’s what the Maccabees did. They wanted to show the Syrian-Greeks that there are still Jews willing to fight and possibly die for the honor of G-d’s sake. The unexpected happened. Jews who had abandoned their religion became inspired by these Jews who just wanted to fight to do the right thing. Many Jews came back and fought with them. This illustrated the idea that “what I do affects not only me, but also all the people around me.”
My menorah in the window affects people on the street. This is a message to take with us from Chanukah. She shared that as we leave this holy festival, we need to ask ourselves what do I want to become? Who do I want to be in this world? Chanukah is unique as the only holiday that spans two months – both Kislev and Teves. Chazal teach that the light of Chanukah gets us through the darkness of Teves.
This holiday was a meeting of sisters. Rachel and Leah combined their spiritual powers. What is the gift that Rachel and Leah came together to give the Jewish people? Every month corresponds to a sheivet. Tishrei, Cheshvan, and Kislev are connected to Rachel’s children and grandchildren, Binyamin, Efrayim, and Menasheh. Rachel was beautiful. She represents what we can see that is revealed good. We as humans seek what is revealed good.
Leah, on the other hand, is the covered world. She represents the world that is difficult to discern. However, in her hiddenness there is consistency. Yehudah, David, and Shlomo all come from Leah. We see Rachel, and she is the world of reward and punishment. The true depth of avodas Hashem is to go into the world of Leah, where we don’t see exactly what is going on, but we trudge ahead. Leah represents the depth of connection. Rachel represents the times in our lives when things are going well and we feel connected to Hashem. These are the times we know that Hashem loves us. Leah represents the times when we aren’t sure if Hashem is happy with us or not. We don’t feel connection. She represents moments when we don’t feel G-d in our lives, but she represents the coming of Mashiach. We believe that every part of what we are doing is making a path towards Mashiach. Leah’s g’matria is 36 and there are 36 candles that hold the Or HaGanuz.
We start with the chodesh of Rachel and move from the revealed connection to Hashem to the month that is hidden. Rachel and Leah hold hands and give us the strength of these two concepts. Yosef interacted with all the forces of tum’ah, but he kept his integrity and he even shone out. Esther and Mordechai also did this.
How a Jew measures up to the nations around him and is a kiddush Hashem to other nations is represented by Yosef. Yehudah represents the power of ruling over himself. That is a kiddush Hashem done within the confines of klal Yisrael. We need both powers to work together. Each Jew has a little of both strengths and we need these to be merged together.
Greek civilization sucked the life force from within, taking out all depth and inner substance and just leaving the external beautiful shell. Yosef represented the force of spiritual beauty fighting superficial beauty. The war of the Greeks is spirituality against superficiality. The Syrian-Greeks wanted to destroy the wall between Jews and non-Jews.
As we pack up our menorahs and our beautiful decorations, we should ask ourselves if we really experienced the eight nights of Chanukah. What am I going to do with that power? Who do I want to be? Is there inner depth in me? Am I focused on external beauty?
Do we have the quality of Leah within our beauty? Does our Judaism have depth inside of it? Can we give over that which is hidden?
She taught that there is depth in who we are. Our mitzvos have layers of depth. Can we fight the shallow beauty of Greece? We have to establish ourselves among the nations while understanding that we need to get to the hidden world. We have to strengthen ourselves from within.
The gift of Chanukah is the beauty from Rachel, which must be infused with Leah with depth and purpose. We need to check our lives to make sure we have both.
Rebbetzin Yaghoubi concluded with a brachah to the audience. “May we take the warmth of our Chanukah candles and bring it to the world and change those around us, because we are overflowing with holiness and love for Hashem.”
Following this, Rebbetzin Yemima Mizrachi, well-known inspirational speaker and author, spoke. She shared a quote from Rabbi Jonathan Saks zt”l. “People we remember all our lives are those who gave us hope.”
She shared how Chazaq gives us hope in every area of our lives. It gives us power to keep holy values. Mikvah is from tikvah, which means hope. Mikvah gives you a new beginning in your family life. She shared how modesty – tz’nius – is a theme in Chanukah.
She taught that the more exposed something is, the more danger there is. When beauty is exposed all over the place, there will always be someone more beautiful or wiser than you. This causes depression. Young people feel unworthy because people expose their happy family or their last trip.
Rebbetzin Mizrachi shared how the Torah says Leah was hated. She was not hated in the true sense. Yaakov loved her, but when it says that she was hated, it means that in relation to how Yaakov felt about Rachel, she was less loved.
Rebbetzin Mizrachi lamented that so many young girls are walking around feeling ugly and hated because of making comparisons to others on websites. “When things are exposed and when people want to conquer with beauty and wisdom, it won’t last. There will always be someone more beautiful or wiser.
The Rebbetzin explained that the way to fight this problem is to close the door of your home and then you will suddenly see how much you have. When the door and windows are open, you will feel you have nothing. “Close the door and windows and look at what you have. The reflection of the light will be so huge!”
She shared the story about the prophet Ovadyah’s widow, who went to Elisha begging for help so her sons wouldn’t be sold into slavery to pay off debts. She had nothing in her home but a little bit of oil. He told her to borrow jars and pots from her neighbors and bring them inside and close the door. Then he instructed her to pour the oil into the containers, and miraculously, every container was filled with oil, so she had enough money to maintain her family for many years. The secret to the miracle happening was what the navi told her to do. He told her to close the door.
She shared how she tells her students to try for five minutes to put on something modest and they will suddenly see how their t’filah has power. Modesty is saying I have such gorgeous beauty that I cannot expose it. Modesty is not thinking that I am unworthy. Take a day and close the door. Close the technology and look at what you have. It will produce more blessings for you.
This shiur can be viewed on TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber