In today’s page of the Tanya, the text central to Chabad Chassidus, we read about the importance of both love and fear in the fulfilment of mitzvos. The Alter Rebbe writes,
“When a person transgresses a prohibitive commandment, G-d forbid, he provides the kelipot with additional strength and vitality. Since kelipot and the sitra achra are entities which conceal G-dliness and holiness and are as such despised by G-d, the Jew therefore guards himself against transgressing. He is “ashamed” to transgress and give the kelipot strength and life. Thus, fear of G-d clothes itself in the observance of prohibitive commandments; for one’s fear of G-d enables him to withstand temptation and refrain from transgression.
We now understand clearly how fear and love of G-d are related to the fulfillment of the commandments, and how the middot are the root and life-force in the performance of commandments in both action and speech.”
There are 365 prohibitive mitzvos and 248 positive ones. The negative mitzvos are ‘kept’ out of fear of G-d’s wrath. These are very important mitzvos. They not only serve to please G-d, but they also prevent immorality; they keep society running smoothly. There are also the positive mitzvos. As we read in the Tanya today, these are very special because they mark the loving relationship between a Jew and his Creator. They symbolise love, not fear. Although this relationship is more beautiful, alone it is not enough to foster Torah observance.
But Chanukah is a time of light. A time of joy, of happiness. And this is why Chanukah dones not feature fear. There is no repentance at Chanukah, no fasting. Instead, we spread positivity through the light of the Chanukiah and the giving of gelt. This makes it particularly enjoyable, but alone it is not enough. If every festival were like Chanukah, people would transgress, they would sin without fear for the consequences. This is why we must balance love and fear. But in the meantime, this is not a holiday for seriousness, or a day of fasting. We must live in the moment, and this means spreading light and joy.
A lichtigen Chanukah.
This message may seem familiar to some of you, but I thought it was worth posting. Once again, I would like to wish you, dear reader, the happiest of Chanukahs!
Chanukah’s only just started but it’s been pretty turbulent for me so far, and I’d like to wish everyone else a slightly more stable Chanukah, but above all, one filled with light and happiness. There are many people in this world working day and night, giving their all, to bring light into this world. I know them. You know them. Without naming any names, I can think of people I’ve met, known, loved, lost and cherised, who did and do their utmost to spread light. This Chanukah, be one of them. Light up a life. Whether it’s through hospitality, visiting someone who’s sick, giving to charity, or simply helping someone run an errand, you can be the source of light in an otherwise dark time.
And you may never know how much of an impact you had.
This week, shabbes is followed directly by the first night of Chanukah! So after enjoying the Havdalah ceremony, light your Chanukiah (instructions can be found online on Chabad.org), and enjoy its radiance- alongside with latkes and sofganiyos, and perhaps a game of draydel! But first and most importantly, there’s shabbes; in London, shabbes candles should be lit at 3:37 PM, and Shabbes ends at 4:54 PM (after which you can light your menorah). While lighting your candles, please remember Chaim Elozor ben Baila and Yisroel ben Esther HaCohen for a refuah shleimah.
Alongside my usual wishes for a gut shabbes, I’d like to wish all my readers, friends and family the happiest of Chanukahs. Last Chanukah I could never have guessed I’d be where I am now, and the love and light in my life shines brighter than any menorah. A Freilichen Chanukah!
Chanukah begins on motzei shabbes- that’s 24th December, 2016- and although it’s technically only a minor festival, it does commemorate a great Jewish victory, and it’s a wonderful way to spend time with one’s community and family. Light is a central theme of Chanukah, and this year we’re especially lucky, as we can reconcile ourselves with the departure of Shabbes and our second soul by basking in the light of Chanukiah. But not everyone can do this.
Although our tables may be laden with latkes, chocolate, sofganiyot, and of course the Chanukiah, many haven’t had the chance to experience the authentic and heart-warming festival that is Chanukah. But there’s still time. Why not invite someone- or indeed, a family- to spend Chanukah by you? By introducing them to the beauty of Chanukah and the light of the Chanukiah, you’re doing a real mitzvah. Just remember to supply them with their own Chanukiah lighting kit before they head home!
Most people are extremely excited for Shabbes week, when we’ll be coming home from Shul and lighting the Chanukiah on Motzei Shabbes. But don’t let’s forget about tomorrow. There is no such thing as an ordinary Shabbes, and this week is no exception. It’s a chance to recharge and to honour Hashem, and with the hustle and bustle of Chanukah preperations, rest is especially welcome. In London, Shabbes candles should be lit at 3:34 tonight, and Shabbes ends at 4:51 PM on Saturday. When lighting your candles, please remember Yisroel ben Esther HaCohen, who is seriously ill, Chaim Elozor ben Baila, who is recovering from a stroke, and Elana Rachel bas Jill Leah, who is undergoing difficult surgery.
I hope everyone enjoyed a refreshing and enlightening shabbes. I, for one, had a really great time, enjoying both a synagogue service at a new shul, and some time at my amazing Chabad house. I haven’t had a shabbes this fulfilling in ages, and I hope that the week ahead is just as good. This week, I want to make a start with my Chanukah preperations. I don’t think I’ll be doing anything major for Chanukah this year, because my family aren’t observant, and the first night of Chanukah falls on December 24th, but I still have cards to make, buy and send, gifts to choose, and recipes to research. What are your plans for the following week?
Living in a predominantly Christian country, I don’t really have a right to feel outraged at all the Christmas decorations and promotions in the shops. But that doesn’t stop me despairing, particularly when Chanukah- a holiday which commemorates resisting assimilation and conquer- merges with it. Coming from a largely non-observant family, I’m no stranger to Christmas. We’ve had more Christmas trees than Chanukkiahs (Channukiot?), and although our celebrations are nothing to do with Jesus Christ, they definitely took- and take- precedence over the Maccabees and spinning draydelach. This year, London’s Chanukah in the Square festival has been cancelled by the Mayor of London, due to the fact that it ‘clashes with Christmas’. True enough, Chanukah starts on December 24th, but it’s eight days long. Eight days. And Chanukah in the Square could’ve been held on any one of those days (Secretly, I’m relieved that I won’t have to worry about gaining weight from the numerous free sofganiyot, but I have to at least pretend to be annoyed)!
To be honest, my mind boggles at how far removed Chanukah is from its roots. It’s a holiday which commemorates that Maccabean revolt. A holiday of Jewish resistance, Jewish pride. Draydelach originate from the tale of rabbis pretending to spin tops, to hide the fact they were studying Torah. These men had to study Torah in secret. They struggled, they fought- and how do we remember them? By turning Chanukah into ‘Chanukahmass’. By selling ‘Chanukah tree toppers for blended families’ and decorating ‘Chanukah bushes’, and even- G-d forbid- forgetting the holiday in honour of Christmas Day! How much longer will this go on for? How long until we can embrace our roots, honour our ancestors, celebrate our past? When will it end?
Before you order that trendy Chanukah bush to impress the neighbours, think about what you’re incorporating into your home and life. Think about what we’ve fought for through the years, and about what’s being cast aside. The Rebbe zt”l reminded us of the importance of the Chanukiah. Rather than placing it hidden inside your house, place it in the window. The light will illuminate the whole street, the whole community, and, as they say- one mitzvah leads to another…