1. Chanukah is associated with war [the Chashmoneans against the Greek forces]. War means armies; and in the war of Chanukah, which was the Jews and Judaism against non-Jews and non-Jewish concepts, it is associated with Tzivos Hashem, the Army (or Hosts) of G-d.
Each of you children has long been enrolled in Tzivos Hashem, and as befits a member of this Army, has done ever more in matters of Judaism — learning Torah and performing mitzvos. This is the battle against the Yetzer (the Evil Inclination), beginning from the youngest years, even before the age of Bar/ Bas Mitzvah, and continuing on as one grows older. Indeed, since one must “educate the child according to his way; even when he will be old he will not depart from it,” it is even more important and useful to be enrolled in Tzivos Hashem when young (than when older). The main thing is to conduct one’s everyday life consonant with the ideals of a soldier in Tzivos Hashem, and thus carry out G-d’s mission of vanquishing the Yetzer.
All this should be done with joy and a good heart, knowing the great merit a child has to be in the army whose Commander-In-Chief is G-d Himself — as stated in Scripture (Yeshayah 13:4): “The L-rd of Hosts commands the host of the battle,” and (Hoshea 12:6): “The L-rd, G-d of the hosts.”
G-d is not as mortal Commander-In-Chiefs, who are separate from their soldiers. In G-d’s army, “The L-rd stands over a person” — G-d is together with every member of Tzivos Hashem; and “searches his mind and heart (to see) if he is serving Him as is fitting” — G-d checks each person’s conduct. Likewise, G-d sees if a person’s service is with joy — “The Jews should rejoice in their Maker,” and in the manner of “You shall love your fellow as yourself” each Jewish child must see that every other Jewish child belongs to Tzivos Hashem. This is achieved by talking to other children about it, and most importantly, by being a living example of how good and important it is to be in G-d’s army. This ensures even more quickly the recruitment of yet another ‘soldier’ to wage battle against the Yetzer with the Commander-In-Chief’s (G-d) help.
In addition to all the above, we have the lesson learned from the Chanukah lights. On each successive day of Chanukah we kindle an additional light. Similarly, each day should see an increase in the abovementioned matters; and in general, an increase in the “mitzvah which is a lamp and Torah which is light.” Each Jewish child must ‘kindle’ yet another mitzvah and learn yet more Torah.
The Chanukah lights are kindled when it becomes dark, illuminating the night. Likewise, the kindling of the “mitzvah which is a lamp and Torah which is light” illuminates the darkness of exile. moreover, through this a Jewish child illuminates the “candle of G-d which is the soul of man” — the G-dly soul given to a person by the Al-mighty. Through this, one illuminates his house and environment, and sheds light to all the Jewish people; and, as before, illuminates the darkness of exile. All this hastens the coming of the great light of the true and complete redemption, through our righteous Mashiach, speedily in our times.
2. Every army has a register in which each soldier is recorded. So too (so to speak) in G-d’s army, Tzivos Hashem. It too has a ‘register’ belonging to G-d, and it is the Sefer Torah, in which are recorded the soldiers of Tzivos Hashem. Hence, each and every soldier, boy and girl, has surely acquired a letter in the Sefer Torah, G-d’s ‘register.’
Similarly, each member has surely seen to it that all their friends and acquaintances are also registered in the Sefer Torah. This Sefer Torah encompasses all Jews. For Yisrael is an acrostic for “There are 600,000 letters in the Torah,” since every Jew (there are 600,000 all encompassing souls from which all Jewish souls derive) has a letter in the (Sefer) Torah.
Should there be a child who doesn’t have a letter in the Sefer Torah, he should purchase one as soon as possible. He/she should influence his/her parents, brothers, sisters, and all Jewish acquaintances to also be inscribed in Tzivos Hashem [All Jews are in G-d’s army; children, however, take pride of place], by purchasing a letter in the ‘register’ of Tzivos Hashem — one of the Sefer Torahs being written for this purpose.
Every army, including Tzivos Hashem, changes, from time to time, the ‘front’ on which the war is fought at a particular time. In the battle against the Yetzer, these changes are indicated in the contents of the prayers or name of the particular time.
The name of these current days is Chanukah. Chanukah means ‘dedication’ (or re-dedication). The festival of Chanukah derives its name from the rededication of the Bais HaMikdash in the days of the Chashmoneans. The lesson to be learned from this regarding the particular ‘front,’ the special mission of Tzivos Hashem in the days of Chanukah, is as follows: A Jewish heart is the inner, spiritual Bais HaMikdash of a Jew, of whom G-d says “I will dwell within them.” The preparation to G-d’s presence therein is (the beginning of the verse): “They shall make a Sanctuary for Me” — a Jew, from infancy, prepares his heart as a ‘Sanctuary’ for G-d. Through learning Torah and performing mitzvos G-d ‘dwells’ within the heart of every Jew.
The lesson from Chanukah (“re-dedication”) is that we must re-dedicate and refresh our Jewish heart. From time to time a Jew must renew the ‘Sanctuary’ within which G-d dwells, with fresh strength and vitality. This is done through learning G-d’s Torah with new diligence, strength and enthusiasm; and through performing G-d’s mitzvos in the best way possible. In simple terms, the lesson is that in these days of Chanukah, each member of Tzivos Hashem has a special ‘mission’ of awakening within oneself a new strength, enthusiasm, and joyousness in Torah study and performance of mitzvos. This applies (especially) in each of the days of Chanukah.
The above should be carried out in the manner of ‘deed is the essential thing.’ In particular, in each of the days of Chanukah, each member should
1) study Torah and
2) give tzedakah or perform deeds of kindness,
both of them in the special honor and merit of Chanukah. On Shabbos Chanukah, when it is prohibited to handle money, one should give double the amount of tzedakah on Friday — once for Friday and once for Shabbos.
When the above is carried out on the eight successive days of Chanukah, on each day learning extra Torah and giving extra tzedakah (and the more the better) — it will be easier to conduct oneself in the same fashion the entire year.
One of the customs on Chanukah is to give ‘Chanukah gelt (money).’ Since we must increase in our observance of Torah and mitzvos (as explained above), this time, instead of giving two coins to each child (as is usual at such gatherings), we will give three coins — the extra one as ‘Chanukah gelt.’ Likewise, each of you should give ‘Chanukah gelt’ to one of your friends (boys to boys and girls to girls). You should encourage your friends and acquaintances to also give ‘Chanukah gelt’ (besides fulfilling the other Chanukah observances).
This will be a preparation to G-d giving each of us, together with all Jewry, His much longed for ‘Chanukah gelt’ — the speedy building of the third Bais HaMikdash. There “Your holy Kohanim,” led by Aharon, will kindle the Menorah, speedily in our times.
3. [The following section was spoken by the Rebbe Shlita in Russian.]
Now a few words to all those Jewish children living in countries where Yiddish is not understood, and also to those in America who do not understand Yiddish.
Although the contents of that said previously (in Yiddish) will presumably be made known to these children, I will now reiterate (at least the main points) in their language (Russian).
Every Jewish child should try to kindle the Chanukah lights. This evening they should try to kindle one light, tomorrow two lights, and so forth until the eighth day when we kindle eight lights. Each child should also fulfill the custom of giving ‘Chanukah gelt’ to his friend, or brother, sister or other relatives. In addition, during the eight days of Chanukah, each child should increase in Torah study as much as possible, especially the laws and history of Chanukah.
As I have emphasized more than once, the Constitution of every country, including that of the U.S.S.R., guarantees every Jew, man, woman, and child, the right to practice all mitzvos and Jewish customs (at home or in synagogue). Moreover, the Constitution guarantees the full protection and cooperation of the government in practicing religion.
Hence, every Jewish child may perform all the laws and customs of Chanukah — to kindle the Chanukah lights, give ‘Chanukah gelt,’ and increase in Torah study and fulfillment of mitzvos. Each child must know that through these things he/she unites with all Jewish children in the world who fulfill the same mitzvos and customs at the same time. This ensures true peace in the entire world, making it easier to practice Judaism.
There is another thing you should do. Each of you should ask your mother or father (or some other adult you know) to buy a letter for you in the Sefer Torah. The Torah was given to each of you and us and the entire Jewish people, as stated: “The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov.” The Torah was given to Moshe who passed it on to each and every Jew in the entire world, young and old, for all generations.
All Jews are therefore united with each other through Torah. And when a Jew buys a letter in the Sefer Torah, he becomes united even further with the Torah, united with G-d — and hence even more united with the whole Jewish people.
All Jews must prepare themselves for the true and eternal redemption from exile through our righteous Mashiach, speedily in our times. Then, each of you, together with all Jewish children, will greet Mashiach — “with our youth and our elders, our sons and daughters.” And together with Mashiach we will go to the holy city of Yerushalayim, to the Bais HaMikdash (built anew by G-d with even more greatness than before), when “Your holy Kohanim,” led by Aharon the Kohen Gadol, will light the holy Menorah.