Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Spirit of the Law: Chanukah #12

(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139:12) “On the first night one makes three blessings. 1) להדליק—‘To light...’; 2)שעשה נסים —‘He Who performed miracles...’; and 3)שהחיינו —‘That He has given us life...’. The latter blessing is only said on the first night.”

להדליק נר חנוכה: The Arizal explains that the initials of the three primary words of the blessing spells out a particular triad associated with the Divine Name—נחל. Even if one’s custom is to add של to the phrase, this does not disrupt this triad since it is not an integral element of the blessing. Reb Nosson of Breslov explains in his Likutei Halachos, zt”l, that NaChaL stands for נפשנו חכתה לה'—“Our souls wait for G-d.” Rebbe Nachman, zt”l, taught that Chanukah is a time for thanking Hashem—it is the time “l’hodos u’lihallel”—to offer thanks and praise for all of the good that He does for us. It is through the miracle of Chanukah that one accomplishes this, because the miracle heightens our awareness of the fact that all of the good we experience is a miracle. We must make ourselves aware of the myriads of good things that the Creator provides at all times. The truth is that this path of gratitude is a powerful method to come close to the Creator no matter what we are going through. This material world is full of challenge, pain, and anguish. Because of this, it is hard to come close to the Creator. It is even difficult to pray for closeness and to speak about our problems with our Creator because our hearts are so sealed. Such obstacles prevent a person from serving Hashem in a complete way.
The way out of this difficulty is to praise Hashem and thank Him for all the good that He has done for us and our ancestors. The primary focus of our gratitude is the very fact that we are Jewish and that we received the Torah and have been separated from the nations. If we were to pay attention to all that we go through, we would see that everything we face is still characterized by boundless kindness. We must not allow ourselves to be confused by our tests—we must instead focus on the many kindnesses which the Creator bestows upon us at all times. After all, we are privileged to put on tefillin every day and say the lofty Shema prayer twice a day. We should thank Hashem for this in and of itself! We must get into the habit of always expressing our gratitude to our Maker. We must first thank for the good we have received, and only afterward plead about that which we lack. Through this, one experiences a taste of the next world where we will derive pleasure from praising the King of Kings. This is the meaning of the phrase in Tehillim: “Our souls wait for Hashem,” whose initials spell NaCHaL. Through praising all the good in our lives and all of the favors the Creator has bestowed on us, we fortify ourselves to yearn and wait for Hashem to deliver us.
The Chid”a, zt”l, and the Vilna Gaon, zt”l, write that in the merit of trusting in Hashem, He saves even one who is not worthy of being saved! Praising Hashem arouses our trust in Him and results in our deliverance. Each Chanukah is an opportunity to renew our commitment to follow this path that can release us from our troubles. It is for this reason that we recite the blessing of Shehechiyanu on the first night. We set upon the path of gratitude on Chanukah by thanking the King for allowing us to live until this point and to light the menorah!

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