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Chanukah: The great light when we see each other again
By Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach on December 21, 1992 – כ”ו כסלו תשנ”ג
You can be the richest man in the world, you can have everything between heaven and earth, you can be in the same room with the one thing you have been looking for, but if there is no light to show you where it is, then you do not have it. Chanukah is the holiday of the inside light, the hidden light, the light which is burning amidst the deepest darkness. On Chanukah we celebrate the light which gave the Maccabees the strength in the darkest period to believe that they can drive out the Greeks in the Holy Land.
You see, my best friends, when we are born, G-d gives us everything, every day G-d gives us everything; only sometimes we turn off the light by our mistakes. Sometines we blow out our own candles, so on Chanukah HaShem gives us back the light we need the most.
Chanukah is the holiday when the Talmud says,“Chanukah is a man and his house,” meaning that the whole family has to come together. Because between husband and wife, parents and children, you can stand next to each other for a thousand years and be as far away as two million eternities. Chanukah is the great light when we see each other again. According to the Kabbalistic tradition it is deeper than Yom Kippur. It is the holy of holiest, but not in the temple, in my own house. We kindle the light by the door to tell the people – the outside people – who have not yet found their own house, who have not yet found their own soul, who have not yet found even their own friend. And we share our light with them.
All the hatred in the world is only because people don’t see each other. Chanukah is the holiday that we are closest to the Messiah and, gevalt, do we need the world to see us one time! And gevalt, do we need all the Jews one time to see the holiness of being Jewish! Let it be this year. Amen.
Chanukah: Taking care of our children, Taking care of the little candles
November 20, 1988 – י”א כסלו תשמ”ט
A lot of people always pray for children. There is a very simple way- buy yourself a baby carriage. Enroll your child in yeshiva, buy a Chumash for your baby, buy a Gemara. And you know something- G-d doesn’t let you down.
A person came to the holy Reb Dovid Dinover and said, “Rebbe, bless me with children”. He says, “I’ll tell you the truth- my chossid, the heilige Reb Feivish Tosher, he is an expert on blessing with children. Why don’t you go and ask him to come to you for lunch, and he’ll take care of you.” The heilige Tosher comes in, and begins running around in the house like crazy. So this Yiddele says to him, “holy Rebbe, what are you looking for?” The Rebbe says, “I’m looking for a baby carriage.” He says, Rebbe, “I have no children.” The Rebbe says, “do you know I only eat in a house that has children?” The Yiddele says, “Rebbe, what am I going to do now?” He says, “I’ll tell you something, I’ll come back next year.”
First he promises he’ll eat, then he promises himself never to eat in a house that has no children. So he’s forcing G-d to give this Yiddele children. I want you to know, on Yom Kippur we are not forcing G-d. We are standing before G-d, asking Him- give me long life, give me parnossa, a living- maybe we’ll have a good year, hopefully.
But the last night of Chanukah- Zot Chanukah- Zot means clear. I know I’ll have a good year, do you know why? Because I’m looking at my little candles, at my children. I’m saying to G-d, You’d better take care of me because my children need me. You’d better give me long life, because I’ve got to take care of those candles. So a father and mother are standing before G-d saying, listen G-d, I have You in my hands. I’m taking care of my children- that means You’d better take care of me.
If you want to have a good year, take that little candle, that holy drop of oil G-d sends into your house, and seal it with the seal of the High Priest. Make your children so holy and so beautiful- so, so beautiful. Chanukah is mehadrin min hamehadrin, most, most beautiful.
You know, it’s not enough to be frum, it’s not enough to be a servant of G-d. It has to be beautiful. Reb Nachman says, whatever is in this world, is in Heaven the same way. Nobody can stand sad people, ugly people. You just have patience, but you’re not loving them. You can’t blow your mind that you want to be in their presence. It’s the same way for G-d. Ugliness is very hard for G-d to stomach. On Chanukah we’re beautiful again.
Do you know why we are beautiful? Because we are taking care of our children, taking care of the little candles, taking care of that holy oil which G-d gave us. So I bless you, friends- Take care of your baby carriages, take care of your children, take care of your houses. And let it be the best year of your life.
Chanukah: Seeing in the shining lights only the beauty of people.
Sometimes, I ask myself, after the destruction of the Holy Temple nearly two thousand years ago we still cannot stop thinking about it. How come? How come? Who ever heard of mourning for a house destroyed so long ago? But, let me tell you. Imagine that I loved this girl very much, and then we had a fight, but before we separated we agreed that once a year for eight days, that we would be as close as we once were. Can I then ever forget her? I want you to know that our Holy Rabbis teach us that on Chanuka we are once again in Jerusalem and not here in Poughkeepsie. We are not ordinary people on Chanuka, but we are all High Priests and we are kindling the lights in the Holy Temple.
Kindling the Chanuka lights is a lesson in Jewish history. Knowing the past is vital, but living it and re-living it is the obligation of the Jew. History is important, but merely knowing facts is pagan, an aspect of Greek culture. A Jew survives in the present because he also experiences his past. And what is it about Chanuka that we celebrate? Not the amazing feat that seventy priests defeated a highly trained army of Greek soldiers. Do not think that Judah the Maccabbee, or his father Matisyahu, the High Priest studied military strategy. I can assure you that they never held a weapon in their hands before they fought the Greeks. A priest in the Temple does not train with weapons. The priests are the pillar of peace and forgiveness. Our Holy Rabbis taught us that Aaron, the first High Priest, loved peace and always pursued it. The Maccabees fought to restore the glory of G-d, but today we celebrate the miracle of the lights.
Each day that the candles burned was a great miracle. G-d promised the Maccabees that the lights rekindled by them would burn forever. Each day that the candles burned was a great miracle. G-d promised the Maccabees that the lights rekindled by them would burn forever. Each day we add one more light. We must teach our children to remember the holy ancient lights, but also to add new lights, new ways.
Modernity is not alien to religion, it enhances it.
The young people of today are not unlike the young people in the days of the Maccabees. They too have strayed from their holy tradition. We need someone like Judah Maccabee to show us how beautiful it is to be a Jew. Young people must understand that G-d needs each of them to make a special contribution to our religion, that only they are capable of making. Every day we are supposed to add new lights. G-d wants even the most alienated person to be a shining light. On Chanuka we see in the shining lights only the beauty of people.
You know what I consider the worst possible meeting that a person can attend– a parents and teachers meeting, where teachers tell parents how bad their children are. Basically, parents see only good in their children, but unfortunately sometimes they let the bad things teachers tell them about their children affect them. A so-called rebellious child must be viewed like seeing Miss America in the mud– she is still beautiful but all she needs is to be washed off. Yes, sometimes our children do not behave well and so require a little bit of fixing and that must not detract from the fact that they are still basically good. If we can transmit to our children how our grandparents blessed the Chanuka candles, then and only then can we guarantee that our grandchildren will also offer holy blessings over the candles and continue to serve as shining lights.
Chanukah: Giving us the Strength to Perform the Greatest Miracles
By Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach on December 21, 1983 – ט”ו טבת תשמ”ד
Every month we are fixing a certain aspect of our lives. The fixing of this month, Kislev, is sleeping. Inasmuch as light disturbs your sleep, if it is too dark, you are afraid to sleep.
Hanukah is the holiday of the hidden light, the light which shines into the deepest darkness. What is utter darkness to the soul? To think that I am utterly alone. Hanukah is the holiday that even if all the vessels of the holy temple are defiled, the holiest miracles are happening to us every second – miracles from another world, from the world of deepest holiness where defilement doesn’t reach.
What is it to be alone in the world? To think that there to nobody in the world who can perform miracles for me. Hanukah is the Initiation of the holy temple: G-d’s temple, Israel temple. Husband and wife temple. Parents and children temple.
You can do anything in the world outside your house. For sleeping, you need a house. Nothing brings parents and children closer, than when parents put their children to sleep. Why do children need their parents to put them to sleep? Because they need to know that there is someone watching who can and will perform miracles for them – someone whose love comes from a world of utmost purity and undefilement.
Every year, Hanukah the festival of miracles, the festival of rebuilding the house, the festival of Aaron the High Priest, fixes all our relationships, teaches us to love each other, and especially our family, with the utmost undefiled love. Yom Kippur we become one with G-d again — Hanukah we become one with our children again. Yom Kippur I promise G-d I’ll do right again. Hanukah I promise my children and G-d and the whole world: I’ll perform the greatest miracles for you.
Please, please let it be clear to you that Hanukah is the greatest holiday, that on Hanukah G-d gives us strength so that you and I – the Macabees of today – can perform the greatest miracles.
Chanukah: Light reaching the darkest corners of our hearts
By Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach on December 21, 1973 – כ”ו כסלו תשל”ד
Everybody knows that Hanukkah is really the end of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Simchas Torah. That means that the High Holidays are all beautiful, but the highest point of them all is on Hanukkah.
On Rosh Hashanah, I am in awe before the King of kings. On Yom Kippur, I stand before G-d again and measure myself. Inside I am saying to myself, “I did such and such good deeds and such and such not so good deeds.” But on Hanukkah I stop thinking this way altogether because the deepest question is not how many evil deeds and how many good deeds I have done.
The deepest question is “What do I have inside of me?” When the whole story is over, what remains inside of me? How do I feel? Am I closer than I ever was with G-d? Am I in touch with the inside of my soul? Is there any light left in my heart? Where am I?
If after all these questions, I discover that there is still light left inside of me, then I owe it to the world. I must be the one to help bring the Mashiach. I must be the one to open the doors for G-d’s Light to shine into the world.
However, if after all these questions, I am still left in the dark; If after all these holidays, the world around me is still in the dark, then I must ask myself, “What good was it all?”
On Yom Kippur, G-d forgives us for our mistakes. On Simchas Torah we dance them all off. But that still does not answer the question, “When does G-d fix our hearts? When does G-d take all the hatred and pain from our hearts? When are we healed? When does G-d give us back the holiness of once again being able to see that Light in others and being able to bless them in our own hearts? When do we recognize the light in ourselves and in all of those beautiful people around us?” The answer my beautiful friends, is on Hanukkah.
Hanukkah is the time of the Macabees, descendents of Aaron the High Priest. Aaron’s specialty was making peace between people. How can someone make peace between people? Aaron HaCohen had the level of holiness of actually being able to cleanse a person’s heart of all hatred and pain. It was only after that cleansing that they could see the light in others and make peace with the entire world around them. This is a very special blessing he gave to us.
Face it. If each time I make a mistake, I feel more bitterness towards others, its only because I feel bitterness towards myself. And with every bit of this bitterness, I become further and further away from my Neshama, and from my own heart. On Yom Kippur, it may be that G-d fixes my soul. But its on Hanukkah that the Great Light shines into my heart. And so when I stand before a mirror, I see a beautiful person instead of a Shmendrik.
So on Hanukkah, my beautiful friends, the lights are burning, even into the darkest hours of the night. And while that light flickers, we are praying, “Master of the World, if it is my mistakes that have kept me in darkness, let this Hanukkah Light shine into all areas of my darkness. Let this Hanukkah Light keep me from ever hating people. Let this Hanukkah Light give me so much holiness that all the darkness of the world can not take away my love for myself and all the beautiful people.”
And so I want to bless you and bless myself that this Hanukkah should fix us and its Light should reach the darkest corners of our hearts. And we should all be blessed to realize that when we do kindle a candle, it is G-d’s Light we have brought into the world.
Chanukah: Kindle one more candle to shine into the world, until all the streets of the world are full of light
By Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach on December 21, 1973 – כ”ו כסלו תשל”ד
Teaching and Giving Over.
There is such a thing as teaching, and there is such a thing as giving over. Giving something over to someone is much deeper than teaching. The Torah says Moses received the Torah on Mt. Sinai, and he came down, but it does not say he taught the Torah to Joshua. It says ‘u’m’sora’ , gave it over to Joshua. This is the deepest depths there is. Sometimes one meets someone one can study with for ten years, they can teach you for ten years and they don’t give anything over to you. Sometimes you meet someone, and maybe they don’t teach you so much but they give something over to you.
Reb Mendele Vorker, the silent Rebbe, was a rebbe for 40 years, and in those 40 years he only spoke eight times. Even those times, on a teaching level he didn’t say anything. At one time he was sitting with his Chassidim for fourteen hours and at the end he said, HaShem Echad”. “G-d is One” and then he said, “Happy is the one who knows that ‘G-d is one’ means G-d is One”. On a teaching level he didn’t say anything, but when he said “Hashem Echad”. “G-d is One”, he gave it over. We need someone to give over Yiddishkeit to us. We need someone to give over to us, not to teach us that there is one G-d.’
The Torah says ‘Jacob, Yisrael, loved Yosef more than all his children. Naturally today, on the low level we are, if a father loves his son, he says to him, “Man” – Oh no, he would never say man, that would be too far out. He says, “Son, I want to do something special for you – buy you a trip to Bermuda!” But what does it mean Jacob loved Yosef more? Listen what Rashi says, All the things which Yaakov learned at the Yeshiva of Shem and Aver he gave over to Yosef. You see, he taught all his children the same information, but to Yosef he gave it over.
The Bais Yaakov says the most unbelievable thing. Sometimes the holy prophets knew everything clearly, and sometimes they knew everything, but it wasn’t clear. The Midrash says “Yaakov loved Yosef more than all his children” and it also says G-d says to Israel “I love you”. This is my humble explanation. What did Yaakov give over to Yosef? He gave over to him that he should know that G-d says I love you. Knowing that G-d loves you is something you can not get via teaching. It has to be given over to you. So the thing is like this, Yaakov didn’t have clear prophecy, because he was not to know that Yosef was to be a slave. But Yaakov knew that Yosef needed something special, because he was the first Jew in exile.
Chanuka is the one holiday which has no tractates in the Gemora. Every other holiday has a long tractate, even Purim, which is a minor holiday. Chanuka has only about a page and a half in the Gemara. Chanuka is a holiday of giving over. It says in the Krias Shma that you should teach your children when you sit in your house and when you go on your way. Teaching is ‘at home’ and giving over is ‘on your way’ because there is no time for teaching on the way, only time for giving over. Chanuka is teaching and giving over become one, because on Chanuka I have to put lights at the door of my house so that the light the house (teaching) shines into the street (giving over).
When you teach someone you are not sure his light will increase, but when you give over to someone you know his light will grow. That is why each night of Chanuka we kindle one more candle to shine into the world, until all the streets of the world are full of light.
Chanukah: All the Doors and the Windows of our Hearts are Open to Each Other
By Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach on December 21, 1993 – ז’ טבת תשנ”ד
People wonder sometimes how after two thousand years Yerushalayim is still the center of our hearts and the Beis Hamikdash is still our address. The answer is very simple: because on Chanuka, wherever we are it is Yerushalayim; our house is the Holy Temple and every Jew is the High Priest.
Why don’t we confess our mistakes on Chanuka? The answer is that on Yom Kippur, only the High Priest walks into the Holy of the Holiest. On Chanuka when we light the candles every Jew is the Holy of the Holiest. On Yom Kippur only the High Priest walks into the Holy of the Holiest but when I see what the Greeks do to my children, how they destroy the holiness of their fires, how they defile the soul of their souls, then I have no other way but to take my wife and my children into the Holy of Holiest.
And everybody knows that in the Holy of Holiest you don’t talk about mistakes. You don’t say bad things – even about yourself. You don’t even say bad things about the world. You just want G-d’s light to reach the four corners of the world. So, our holy rabbis tell us that Chanuka is the light of the Messiah; the deepest, deepest, most hidden light in the world… a light that reaches the most hidden place in our hearts.
We kindle the lights by the door or window of the house because on . G-d’s Oneness, the Oneness of all of Israel and the Oneness of all the world is revealed to us in the most glorious way. While we look at the Chanuka candles, I bless us to be together with all the people we love as the light of Chanuka is shining into our eyes.
Originally Published in Kehilat Jacob News
Transcribed from a session in Moshav Mevo Modiin, 5753.