1. It is customary that when Jews meet we greet each other with the salutation “Shalom Aleichem,” to which the others reply “Aleichem Shalom.” Being that this is an ancient custom, hundreds and thousands of years old, we see how this custom has become rooted and embedded in the consciousness of the Jews so that no matter the differences that might exist among us in learning or wealth, it is accepted and practiced by all. This shows us how precious peace is for the Jew. As soon as we meet, even before we begin to speak, no matter how important the subject will be, we start by invoking the blessing of peace. Since we all belong to the Jewish people we project the blessing of Shalom on all who have gathered together, which gives everyone the strength to obtain peace by themselves, their families and the entire Jewish people This also generates the state of-peace in relation to the other nations of the world, for when they see, that despite our differences in knowledge, learning, or wealth, we are united, they give us honor and help us to conduct ourselves as Jews in our daily lives; certainly they do not hinder us in any way.
A Jew’s daily life should be permeated with Yiddishkeit. We emphasize this by saying at the start of the day, “I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for you have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.” We recognize and accept that G-d made the world and all the inhabitants of the world and that each day He gives us a “fresh, new” soul in order to have a “fresh” day in which to conduct our daily lives.
Some days have special observances connected with them and it is clear that any day which is special must also be so with regard to the Yiddishkeit and the observance of Torah and mitzvos, for Torah means teaching and directive and it shows us what to do on the special day.
So too, when a special group of Jews gather, we may learn a unique message for that day. This also gives us a unique mission, to transmit to others that message in a happy and forceful manner and to light the way for one, two and many more people who may also learn from this message.
Let us first consider the laws of the candles of Chanukah and what lesson and directive it may have for this group of Jews particularly.
Today we kindled three Chanukah candles, certainly G-d will give us all life and then, tomorrow we will kindle four candles, just as we added one today, over yesterday when we lit only two, in each case fulfilling the mitzvah properly. Some mitzvos apply only to men, such as tefillin, some apply mainly to women, such as candle lighting on Friday night and the eve of holidays. But on Chanukah the mitzvah of the candle applies to men and women equally. In fact, women played an essential role in the miracle of Chanukah and therefore, while the message of Chanukah applies to both men and women, in some cases the emphasis is for the women more than the men.
What do we learn from the candles? That each day we must add a candle! The yetzer hora, evil inclination, comes to a Jewish boy one year after bar mitzvah and says to him, “For a year you have fulfilled Torah and mitzvos, now you can rest for a year and then you can start again doing Jewish things .
In a similar manner the yetzer hora comes to a person with gray hair and says, “Listen, you have lived a good, nice, Jewish life and you did good, nice, Jewish things, why are you working so hard trying to do all the mitzvos, rest for a while and let others do it for you. After, you’ll rest for a day, a week, a month or a year then you can start again!”
The Chanukah candles tell us, on the contrary, that when you became a day older you added one candle, two days older two candles. Don’t stop making light, you were fortunate to be a messenger of G-d to light up the world; don’t miss a day! Yesterday you kindled two candles, today your mission is to kindle more and don’t be satisfied making light only for yourself, today G-d gives you more power to illuminate the world. As you grow older you are given more power to light up your home with Yiddishkeit and to illuminate the Jewish people and also the other nations of the world. They see that-as the Jew grows older he does not stop doing good things, but gives more light.
To the yetzer who tells you to rest, you answer, “Fool, I have a mission to do, I don’t have to rest, just as G-d does not get tired, neither do I, a day older is a day of more light.”
And if the evil inclination should say, “You are not so strong as you were ten years ago,” Torah answers, this is a mission which G-d has given to every Jew, just as G-d does not get tired of giving Jews His blessings of health, wealth, and true nachas from children and grandchildren — which includes giving Chanukah gelt to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren and also children — so too, we must accept to be his messengers and agents, to spread the light around, and He will Rive us the strength to do it for 120 years.
Our actions must also be accomplished in a joyous and exuberant manner, which finds expression in the blessing we recite before kindling the menorah, in which we bless and thank G-d for: “...You have made us holy through Your mitzvos ....” You have chosen us to illuminate the world! This brings us joy, when we realize how every Jew, man or woman, can illuminate the world. Therefore when we meet another Jew we must also kindle his “Jewish spark” so that he too will illuminate with his “mitzvah candle.” Just as the menorah in the synagogue stands on a high place and sheds its light on all who are present, even though it was kindled by only one individual, so too, when these people return home, each one should kindle Chanukah lights in his home, at the entrance way, spreading the light and illuminating the neighborhood, for all the Jews and the entire world. In a happy way, we also express our thanks to G-d for eXeosAing us to make the light, not only in the synagogue but also at home, each day increasing the light. Just as the menorah which is lit in the synagogue stands high and sheds light all over equally so too this mission applies to men and women equally.
Ultimately we will merit that the world will be illuminated with the light of Mashiach, and he will lead us all together to the Holy Land and we will see the lighting of the menorah in the Beis HaMikdash.
2. This may also be related to the Torah portion of today. When Yaakov sent his sons to Egypt, into the exile, to buy food in the time of famine, he said to them: “May the Al-mighty G-d show you His mercy.” This of course is a lesson from our forefathers for each Jew, young and old, man and woman. When we are on a mission in the “exile of Egypt” our goal is to find “food,” for Jews to be able to live a peaceful, healthy and Jewish life with sustenance both in body and spirit. Certainly it is the mercy of the Al-mighty we seek, but we also need the help of leaders of the land — in the U.S.A. our President — in other countries their leaders — and they must help to provide food for ourselves, our families, for other Jews, and even for those Jews who are in Eretz Yisrael, as in the time of Yaakov. We take strength from our fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers not to be afraid in the diaspora, but to work and earn food and sustenance, both spiritual and physical. When we do that, we have the promise that the Al-mighty will give us grace and mercy in the eyes of all those who can help. Whether they be our representatives in the state capital or in the nation’s capital, they will realize their responsibilities to help all people, also Jews, men and women, young and old, to have food and sustenance in body and spirit.
We must be a shining example, that a Jew truly trusts in the Al-mighty, and when a gentile meets him, he sees that the Jew is not depressed by the exile but has a mission from G-d to lead and to illuminate the world. In the case of Jews, to spread the light of Torah and Yiddishkeit and among the gentiles, to teach them the Seven Noachide Laws, which include also charity for all who are in need and not to hurt, but to help one another. All this must be based on faith in G-d, Who taught us the Torah and moral laws and gave us strength to fulfill this in the best way, with health and happiness. The grace and mercy will also be increased and we will find, that our success will increase more than a day or two ago. Just as the candles increase, yesterday there were two, and two days ago, only one, and today there are three and tomorrow we will increase, until, with G-d’s help, next year again we will light the candles of Chanukah. We are not like fools who think that when you get older you get weaker, on the contrary, as we grow older we get smarter and more religious and receive the blessings of G-d — from “His full, open, holy and bountiful Hand,” in all that ans noP~R
Carry this message of Chanukah to the following days and weeks. Light up the whole year, for yourselves, and for other Jews whom you meet daily to out and kindle the Yiddishe neshamah.
In this way G-d will bless us in all that we require and we will reach the true light of the redemption, as the prophet Yeshayahu says: “Arise and shine, for your light has come.” Then Mashiach will lead us by the hand, men and women, young and old, together, and we will prove that there is no “generation gap”; we will be one nation, for we st-eof together at Matan Torah and received one Torah. May G-d grant that we should meet in the future on happy occasions and speedily, go together to the land, “which the eyes of the L-rd your G-d are always upon it from the beginning of the year till the end of the year,” to Yerushalayim, with the righteous Mashiach, to the rebuilt Beis HaMikdash and see Aharon, the Kohen Gadol, kindle the menorah — speedily and actually in our days.