Monday, December 22, 2008

REB SHLOMO ON CHANUKAH

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.

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.

At 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.

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About Me

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United States
I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!