Tonight is the third night of Chanukah. This is uniquely significant because the recurrence of an event three times produces a chazakah (a threefold sequence which establishes the matter as an accepted fact). In particular, this is relevant this year which began with a threefold sequence of holiness (the two days of Rosh HaShanah were followed by Shabbos) and such a sequence itself repeated itself three times (i.e., a similar phenomenon took place in connection with the holidays of Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah).
May the celebration of Chanukah lead to the revelation of the Third Beis HaMikdash, the inner desire of the entire Jewish people. (Indeed, this desire is expressed three times each day in our prayers.)
As mentioned yesterday (to the Tiferes Zkeinim), the Torah and mitzvos as a totality express the theme of "a mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light;" they bring true light, the light of the Torah, into every aspect of a Jew's mundane experience. For example, if he conducts himself according to the Torah before he sleeps, his sleep is infused with the "lamp" of "mitzvah" and the "light" of "the Torah."
There are, however, certain mitzvos, e.g., Shabbos candles and Chanukah candles, which emphasize this theme to a greater degree. Their connection with the "lamp" of "mitzvah" and the "light" of "the Torah" is not merely an abstract idea written in texts, but rather, an openly obvious matter that can be perceived by our human eyes.
The Chanukah candles teach us lessons that apply in regard to our observance of Torah and mitzvos in general. Among them: a) Each night, we add a new light. Although a Jew was able to observe the mitzvah in a complete manner by lighting a single candle on the first night, on the second night, since additional time has passed, he is required to increase the light and add a second candle. Similarly, on each subsequent night of Chanukah, one continues to increase the lights one kindles. This teaches how each Jew should not remain satisfied with his present standing in Torah and mitzvos, but must constantly strive for a higher peak. b) The Chanukah candles are kindled for eight days in succession. Although one has fulfilled the mitzvah on the previous night, one does not hesitate to fulfill it again. This teaches us how a person must constantly strive to perform mitzvos. Even if he has already carried out a mitzvah once, he should not hesitate when given the opportunity to perform it again. For example, although one has already given tzedakah several times on a particular day, if one meets a poor man in need, one should eagerly fulfill the mitzvah again. Each time one fulfills a mitzvah, one should do so eagerly as if it is the first time one has had the opportunity to do so. c) The Chanukah candles are placed, "at the entrance to one's home on the outside," indicating that they shine out to one's surrounding environment, negating all undesirable influences.
In the HaNeiros Hallalu prayer, we emphasize that the Chanukah miracles were performed by "Your holy priests." In a spiritual sense, each Jew possesses a priestly potential within him. This potential is expressed through the service of G-d in every aspect of his daily experience. Even his mundane affairs should be carried out in a manner of "Know Him in all your ways." This causes them to be considered as equivalent to the service of G-d in the Beis HaMikdash.
Through lighting the Chanukah candles, we bring out the quality of light that exists in all the mitzvos and thus, hasten the coming of the time when we will merit the kindling of the Menorah -- and the Chanukah lights -- in the Third Beis HaMikdash. Then, the entire world will be illuminated with the light of Torah.
This gathering will be concluded by giving money to each individual to give to tzedakah. Similarly, this money is connected to the custom of giving Chanukah gelt which is intended to train children to use money for mitzvos and, in particular, for the mitzvah of tzedakah.
May we merit the building of the Beis HaMikdash in the immediate future and may every Jew, men, women, and children, be able to use his money to contribute to that cause.
The blessings mentioned previously apply to you as well. In addition, you are granted a special blessing because you are reaching your Bar or Bas Mitzvah, the time when you become obligated to perform Torah and mitzvos.
This relates to the Ma'ariv service which we have just recited which includes the recitation of the Shema, the first mitzvah which a Jew fulfills as "one who is obligated in the performance of mitzvos." Similarly, the Shema mentions the fulfillment of the other mitzvos. When one becomes Bar or Bas Mitzvah, and becomes obligated in all the mitzvos, he receives power from G-d that enables him to fulfill these mitzvos and to continually advance in their observance.
In particular, this relates to the mitzvah of tzedakah, a mitzvah which one can fulfill at any time. Our Rabbis describe tzedakah -- and the other mitzvos as well -- as a "garment." Just as a garment protects one from the heat or cold, the mitzvos are intended to ward off the possible obstructions that could come from the coldness of this material world or the heat of material desire.
You will each be given a dollar as Chanukah gelt. This dollar (or another in exchange for it) should be given to tzedakah. Similarly, in connection with your Bar or Bas Mitzvah, it is proper that you give additional tzedakah and that preferably, that it be given in multiples of one hundred. This will draw down 100 blessings from G-d.
May G-d bless each and every one of you in connection with your Bar and Bas Mitzvah and together with you, your parents who help you reach this point in life. May this include the greatest blessing, the coming of the future redemption and the dedication of the Third Beis HaMikdash. May it be in the immediate future.
All the blessings mentioned above apply to you as well, in addition you merit a special blessing in connection with your weddings. Each Jewish wedding foreshadows the era when "speedily, there will be heard in the cites of Judah and the outskirts of Jerusalem,... the voice of a groom and the voice of a bride." This refers to the Era of the future Redemption when all of Eretz Yisrael will be under the dominion of King David who comes from the tribe of Judah.
May we merit the rejoicing of the redemption and the coming of Mashiach. This will enhance the rejoicing of weddings for with the Resurrection of the Dead, there will be more relatives to attend the wedding festivities.
In connection with your weddings, it is proper for you (and similarly, your parents and relatives) to give additional donations to charity. This will serve as the foundation for all the positive dimensions that will come in the future. Similarly, tzedakah brings close the redemption and hastens the time we will hear the "voice of a groom and the voice of a bride" in the outskirts of Jerusalem. May it be in the immediate future.
- (Back to text) Both these mitzvos are incumbent on each member of the Jewish people whether male or female. In regard to the Shabbos candles, it is the women who light the candles on behalf of the entire household. In contrast, in regard to Chanukah candles, it is the men who light the candles on behalf of the entire household. Although the women also had a share in the Chanukah miracle, they are not the ones who actually light the candles. In particular, this is true in regard to Chabad custom.
- (Back to text) Since the Greeks desired to stamp out performance of all the mitzvos, the Chanukah candles which celebrate the victory over them, relate to the totality of the Torah and its mitzvos.
- (Back to text) Three blessings, among them the blessing Shehechiyanu, are recited over this kindling which further emphasize its importance.
- (Back to text) Although the blessing Shehechiyanu is not mentioned on subsequent nights, its omission does not detract from the importance of those nights, because one recited that blessing on the first night with the intent that it apply to all the subsequent nights as well.
- (Back to text) Our Sages taught that even in regard to a single individual, one should give him tzedakah 100 times if he requests. Furthermore, this itself is not a limit, even if one has already given that individual tzedakah one hundred times, one must be prepared to give him a hundred and first time.
- (Back to text) This is implied by our Sages' directive that each day, we should always conceive of the mitzvos as being "new," given to us on that day, and not as old things to which we have become accustomed.
- (Back to text) Our Sages state that the candles must shine until, "the feet of the Tarmudites depart from the market place." Tarmud (âàÄÿÜ) shares the same letters as the word moredes (ÜâÿàÄ) which means "rebel." Thus, it refers to forces which rebel against G-d, as it were. The Chanukah candles cause all vestiges, even the feet, of the Tarmudites to depart.
- (Back to text) When the Third Beis HaMikdash is built, the Chanukah candles will be lit, in the Sanctuary itself -- the seven branched Menorah will be lit each day as commanded in the Torah. In addition, on Chanukah, the eight Chanukah candles will be lit in the courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash.
We can assume that after Aharon the priest fulfills the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah in the Sanctuary, he will be granted the opportunity to kindle the Chanukah lights as well.
- (Back to text) There is an intrinsic connection between the Chanukah lights and the Third Beis HaMikdash. The Third Beis HaMikdash will be an eternal structure, "the Sanctuary of G-d, established by Your hands." Similarly, there is an eternal dimension to the Chanukah candles, as our Sages declared, "The Chanukah lights will never be nullified."
- (Back to text) It is brought down that the bride's and groom's ancestors from at least three generations back attend their wedding celebrations. At present, this refers to the presence of the ancestors' souls. In the Era of the Redemption, they will be able to be physically present.