Wednesday, January 14, 2015

456 - Chanuka

Chazal refer to Chanuka as days set aside forhallel v'hoda'ah (praise and thanks). Rav Wolbe makes a keen observation. When we mention the numerous different levels of praise that human beings offer Hashem, the first rung on the ladder is generally hoda'ah. In thetefillah of nishmas we state that "it is incumbent upon all creations l'hodos l'hallel l'shabeiach l'fa'eir (to give thanks, praise, laud and glorify)..." In the hallel we proclaim "with song yodu v'yishabchu vifaaru..." In contrast, we find that the praises that the angels offer (as mentioned in the tefillah of yotzeir ohr) differ slightly. "And they all open their mouths with holiness, purity, song, and hymn - umivarechim u'mishabechim u'mifaarim..." The first level of hoda'ah is lacking in their repertoire of praises.

Although on most levels the praises of humans and angels are equal, the specific concept of hoda'ah is limited to humans alone. This is because the concept ofhoda'ah is giving thanks for something received from Hashem. The essence of an angel is the mission for which he was created, and he does not have the tools with which to receive anything that would in turn call for him to give thanks. In contrast, hoda'ah is not only a vital part of human obligations, but it is also the first rung on the ladder of praises offered to Hashem. 

Just as giving thanks is a fundamental part of ouravodah, being deficient in this area (kefias tovah) is extremely detrimental and destructive. The Ramban explains that the sin of the Generation of Dispersion was their ambition to make a "name for themselves" (v'naaseh lanu sheim). They wished to entirely disconnect themselves from their Creator, something which our Sages tell us was rooted in their negative trait of ingratitude. One who desires to disengage himself from Hashem has in effect stated that he does not wish to recognize and thank his Benefactor for all the goodness and bounty that He bestows. The Generation of Dispersion wished to disconnect the creation from the Creator, and measure for measure Hashem disconnected them from one another by dispersing them throughout the land. 

In contrast, with regard to the miracle of Chanuka we say in al ha'nisim: "And they designated these eight days of Chanuka to give thanks and praise to Your GreatName (l'hodos u'lehallel l'shimcha hagadol). When we give praise to Hashem we show that we are not interested in making "a name" for ourselves, rather, we recognize Hashem and desire to connect ourselves to our Creator. The world is His, and we wish to thank Him for the endless good which He provides us on a daily basis.

The Mashgiach observes that one who thinks that he lives in a world where everything is already here for him and therefore their use is coming to him, cannot see Hashem in the creation. Everything exists solely due to the will of Hashem, and therefore it is as if He is constantly creating yaish mei'ayin (something from nothing). The Sages instituted the recitation of blessings before partaking in worldly pleasures for they wished to make us cognizant of this reality. When we say "borei pree ha'eitz" this allows us to conjure up Hashem's creation of the Earth and the commandment that it should produce vegetation, trees and fruit. Have we not just beheld Hashem's creation of the fruit from complete nothingness?

The avodah of Chanuka is to understand that everything that we have is due entirely to the will of Hashem. How thankful we must be for all the bounty He bestows upon us. With regard to material acquisitions we are told "And you should be happy with all the good that Hashem has given you." How much more so is this true with regard to our spiritual acquisitions. The difference between us and those who do not know the beauty of theTorah, allows us to recognize the greatness of the Torahand thank the Giver for His boundless kindness. Contemplating this concept is a most worthwhile endeavor, especially during the days of Chanuka that were designated for this purpose.

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