1. Chanukah is associated with the idea of war against the Yetzer (Evil Inclination), which wants to make Jews “forget Your Torah” and to “violate the decrees of Your will.” Although this war is waged the entire year, on Chanukah, (which means rededication), this battle is fought with renewed vigor and life — which produces greater victory.
This idea of Chanukah is alluded to in the kindling of the Chanukah lights. When a lamp is kindled, its light does not remain within the lamp, but illuminates all around. This is particularly emphasized in the Chanukah lights, which are lit “at the entrance of the house on the outside” — to illuminate not just the person and the house, but also outside. A passerby in the street sees light around him because a Jew has lit “the candle which is a mitzvah and Torah which is light” — a Jew keeps G-d’s mitzvos, kindles G-d’s ‘candle,’ and makes it ‘Torah which is light.’ He has illuminated his environment with the light of Judaism. This defeats and dispels the darkness of the Yetzer.
The Talmud says that if a person truly tries, then success is assured. When a Jew tries to illuminate his environment and thus defeat the Yetzer, he can be sure that he will be successful. This is a natural victory. However, the days of Chanukah teach us that victory will not only be a normal, natural one, but will be miraculous. Just as the original victory of Chanukah was a miracle, as we say in the special prayers for Chanukah “[We thank you] for the miracles” and “Who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days” — so too today, the victory against the Yetzer is a miraculous one. The victory, besides that stemming naturally from a person’s own efforts, comes from G-d’s help, making it that much greater and causing that much more light.
2. The above applies to all the days of Chanukah. Today, ‘Zos Chanukah,’ the last day of Chanukah, emphasizes a further essential point in the battle against the Yetzer. In war, after various skirmishes with the enemy in which we are victorious, we mount a major all-out attack to completely vanquish the enemy, and eliminate all possibility of further trouble. In our war against the Yetzer, this means that after partial attacks against the Yetzer through Torah or prayer or tzedakah etc., we mount a major all-out attack by involving ourselves in all aspects of a “candle which is a mitzvah and Torah which is light” to the greatest degree.
This is the difference between the eighth day of Chanukah (‘Zos Chanukah’) and all the other days. In the preceding days, we war against the Yetzer only partially: on the 1st day we kindle one light of the ‘candle which is a mitzvah and Torah which is light,’ on the second day two lights etc., leaving some lights unlit. On the eighth day we make the major attack by kindling all the (eight) lights of the Menorah, and the illumination from the Chanukah lights is disseminated to the widest degree. In man’s service to G-d, this means that a Jew ‘kindles’ all powers and possibilities that he possesses to illuminate his environment with the light of Torah and mitzvos.
The major attack mounted on Zos Chanukah is reflected in the reading of the Torah on this day. We read much more than on the other days: about more tribes (corresponding to Jews), and about more princes of the tribes; and we also read about the total sum of all Jews and their offerings (“good deeds”). Moreover, the Torah reading of this day ends with the command to Aharon that “When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall shed light toward the [central shaft of the] Menorah.” All the lights of the Jewish menorah — i.e. the light of the “soul of man which is the lamp of the L-rd,” are kindled ‘towards the menorah’ — towards G-d Who is the center and source of the light of the Jewish menorah. Simply put, this means that a Jewish soul, whose source is G-d, (“the soul of man is the lamp of the L-rd”) illuminates and is connected with the light of Judaism through fulfilling the “mitzvah which is a candle and Torah which is light.” This openly connects a Jew with G-d.
Through this major attack mounted on Zos Chanukah, the Yetzer is completely eliminated, and it is impossible that a Jew should not learn Torah with the greatest dedication and perform mitzvos in the best way possible. Especially since our victory is also with the miracles wrought by G-d (as explained above) — which completely eliminates any possibility of the Yetzer causing trouble.
3. The above (elimination of the Yetzer through the service of Zos Chanukah) is relevant to all Jews. It has, however, particular emphasis when done through Tzivos Hashem, G-d’s soldiers — children of pre Bar/Bas Mitzvah age. Of Jewish children, it is stated: “From the mouth of babes and sucklings you have founded strength to still the enemy and the avenger.” Torah (“strength”) is founded and starts from “babes and suckling” — and causes “the enemy and avenger” of Jews to be ‘stilled.’ The previous Rebbe explained that Jewish children have the power to eliminate dangers to the Jewish people through battling against enemies with the Jewish weapons of Torah and mitzvos — which is our “strength.” Especially when this war is waged on Chanukah, the war against the Yetzer. And, as discussed on a previous occasion, in addition to learning Torah and performing mitzvos (especially tzedakah) the entire year, to increase in these things on Chanukah. Afterwards, on Zos Chanukah, the major attack is mounted and the Yetzer is completely defeated. In other words, Torah study and performance of mitzvos, the utilization of all powers that connect us with Torah and (through this) G-d, is increased on Zos Chanukah.
On Zos Chanukah, all Jews, and especially children, armed with the knowledge that this is the last battle that will have to be waged against the Yetzer, have a complete and final victory against the Yetzer. We are finally freed from the captivity of the Yetzer and non-Jewish influences. This then leads to our freedom from the actual exile, in a final redemption that will never be followed by another exile.
4. Zos Chanukah this year falls out on the day immediately following Rosh Chodesh. This provides us with a lesson connected with Chanukah, and Zos Chanukah in particular. Before we kindle the eight lights of Zos Chanukah — before we wage the main attack against the Yetzer — we mention in the Minchah prayer that it is Rosh Chodesh, and therefore “may there ascend... before You... our remembrance ... and the remembrance of Mashiach the son of Dovid Your servant and the remembrance of Yerushalayim Your holy city and the remembrance of all Your people the House of Yisrael.”
“Jews count according to the moon,” meaning, the Jewish calendar, which fixes the festivals (including Chanukah), is a lunar one. On Rosh Chodesh the moon is ‘born’ and illuminates anew. The moon receives its light from the sun, which in turn receives its light from G-d, the “Creator of light.” From Rosh Chodesh on, the moon continues to give more and more illumination. So too with Jews. A Jew, from birth on, sheds more and more light each day with his “soul... which is the lamp of the L-rd” — with the light which comes from G-d. He receives this through learning the “Torah which is light” and performing “mitzvos which are a candle.”
This is the lesson and directive from the Rosh Chodesh prayer. Just as on Rosh Chodesh the moon is renewed and illuminates anew, so too must Jews shed light anew, every day illuminating more and more — oneself and other Jews (“the remembrance of all Your people”). In addition, a Jew asks G-d to remember “Mashiach the son of Dovid Your servant,” together with “Yerushalayim Your holy city.” A Jew is sure that the remembrance of Mashiach ascends before G-d on Rosh Chodesh, and hence is certain that Mashiach will come now, and therefore the complete redemption (accompanied by the total and final defeat of the Yetzer) also comes now.
5. There is another thing which has a special connection to these days just prior to Mashiach’s coming. In the book of Daniel it states: “At that time (prior to Mashiach’s coming) Michoel shall stand up, the great prince (the chief angel), who stands for the children of your people (Michoel is the angel who is associated with the Jewish people) ... and your people will be saved, everyone who is written in the book.” In addition to Michoel’s help, all Jews who are found written in the “book” will be saved, the “book” referring to G-d’s book, the Sefer Torah. Especially since each Jew renews his being written in the ‘book’ by purchasing a letter in one of the Sefer Torahs currently being written (the special Sefer Torahs for children, and those for adults). Anyone who has not yet purchased a letter, should do so as quickly as possible. Likewise, if one knows of others not yet ‘written in the book,’ efforts should be made to influence him or her to do so — mentioning the above mentioned verse in Daniel.
Through this renewal of a Jew’s bond with Torah, and thus the bond with the Giver of the Torah, Jews, Torah and G-d becomes one. Then we stand protected and united as a preparation to the true and complete redemption. This is done with joy, especially now, during Chanukah, which are “days of joy.”
Similarly, we perform the three things of Torah, prayer, and good deeds with joy; and through this three-fold joy we come to the eternal joy of the redemption.