1. Although this farbrengen is being held the night after “Zos Chanukah” (the last day of Chanukah), it is still connected with Chanukah, for in many holy matters the night is part of the previous day. In addition, as in most festivals which have an additional day because of doubt as to the exact date of the festival,1 there is a basis for postulating that Chanukah too should have an extra day; in which case, tonight would be the ninth night of Chanukah.2 Moreover, the moral evaluation of a day’s actions is done at the time of the prayer before retiring at night.3 Thus the self-evaluation of the last day of Chanukah is done now, tonight.

Even though introspection and self examination comprise one of the most important services of man, it cannot be carried out constantly, during every minute. For then, there would be no time for anything else; and nothing would get done. Instead, Torah has instituted special times for a moral self-evaluation. In the course of an entire year, a special month is dedicated for that purpose — the month of Elul. In each individual month, the day before Rosh Chodesh of the new month is set apart for a reckoning of the previous month. Every week, erev Shabbos (Friday) is apportioned for self-examination, so that one may enter Shabbos in the proper manner.4 Each day, the special time set aside for examination of that day’s deeds is the time of the prayer before retiring at night.

Although right now there is still some time before we retire for the night, nevertheless, a proper self-evaluation needs preparation. For one may easily underestimate his qualities (leading to dissipation of useful skills), or overestimate his qualities (leading to insufficient corrections) thus resulting in a false accounting. And therefore now, several hours before the prayer before retiring at night, is the right time to make the proper preparations for a true accounting.

The moral self-evaluation for a year, a month, a week, a day, take proportionately different amounts of time. This is analogous to the accounting system used in business. A businessman usually makes a comprehensive balance of all his affairs once a year. Every month he makes a briefer balance, and every week and day even briefer balances. So too, in a person’s spiritual balance, the self-evaluation at the end of each day is briefer than that of each week; which in turn is briefer than that of each month which is subsequently briefer than that of the entire year.

The night of “Zos Chanukah” (the eighth day of Chanukah), is the time for an accounting of all the days of Chanukah, for “Zos Chanukah” includes within itself the previous seven days. This can be seen from the Torah-reading of Zos Chanukah, which is the sum total of all the sacrifices read on the preceding days of Chanukah. It thus incorporates within itself the evaluation (and preparation) of all the preceding days.

In practical terms, we should use the remaining hours left of tonight to complete anything that was left undone during Chanukah. For these hours of preparation to a true accounting of the days of Chanukah is a propitious time for bettering one’s already good actions or at least making good resolutions to correct past actions. When one makes a good resolution, “the Holy One blessed be He unites a good thought to the deed.” Thus, even when one has only a good thought, i.e. a resolution to do a Mitzvah, that thought is not regarded as meaningless [although it is not immediately translated into deed]; instead, when the deed is later actually performed by that person, G‑d unites its previous resolution to it, causing the resolution to be elevated together with the deed.5

May all the above be carried out fully, and with joy, leading to the coming of our righteous Moshiach, who will lead us upright to our land, quickly in our days.


2. The above is relevant in every year. But there are differences between years, which must also serve to guide us in our service, consonant with the Baal Shem Tov’s dictum that everything a Jew comes in contact with provides a lesson for his service to G‑d. Such differences between years include the time when Chanukah falls on — in the days of the week, the month, and the parshah of the week. Not only can a particular day in Chanukah fall out on different days of the week in different years, but also the latter days of Chanukah can fall out on different days of the month. For sometimes the preceding month of Kislev has twenty-nine days and sometimes thirty. [Thus, for example, if it has twenty-nine days the sixth day of Chanukah will be on the first of the next month, Teves (Chanukah starting on the 25th of Kislev). But if thirty, the sixth day will be the 30th day of Kislev.]

This year Zos Chanukah falls on a Wednesday, the day which initiates the concept of “Maale Shabbata” — the three days of preparations for ushering in the Shabbos in the proper manner.6 Shabbos itself is the concept of “And they were completed (the heavens and the earth),” when all matters of the preceding weekdays are uplifted and “completed.” Thus “Maale Shabbata,” the preceding days of preparation for Shabbos beginning with Wednesday, prepare for the “completion” of the previous weekdays — which include the last days of Chanukah.7 And this is connected with the previous discussion on the hours after Zos Chanukah being the proper time to make an evaluation of the Chanukah days.

3. There is a further significance in the parshah of the week in which Zos Chanukah falls — this year being parshas Vayigash. The opening words of the parshah tell of the efforts made by Yehudah (to Yosef in his capacity of Viceroy of Egypt) to keep Binyamin from becoming a slave in Egypt. Not only was he successful, but all the brothers were treated royally.

This mirrors the general theme of the parshah. The Talmud (Shabbos 89b) states: “It was fitting for Ya’akov Avinu to go down into Egypt in iron chains.”8 Instead, he went down in royal fashion, treated with great respect and honor by Pharaoh. Similarly, Yosef, in his capacity of Viceroy, was the actual ruler of all Egypt — “without you no man shall lift his hand or his foot,” and “according to your word shall all my people be ruled.”9

Yosef’s rulership began as soon as he was brought down to Egypt. The Hebrew word for “brought down — Hurad,” in the verse “Yosef was brought down to Egypt” is etymologically related to the word “Veyerd — and he will have dominion” in the verse: “And he will have dominion from sea to sea” (Tehillim 72:8). The verse refers to King Shlomo, but also to King Moshiach, who will put an end to all exiles. And it was Yosef’s going down to Egypt which was the first step towards the ultimate objective of that and all subsequent exiles — the final redemption of Moshiach.

Although Yosef’s rulership began when he descended to Egypt, it was not immediately apparent. Not only when he languished in prison, but even after he became viceroy, it was not fully apparent. For, as noted before, it was not yet known whether Ya’akov would come to Egypt in “iron chains,” or in the most honorable fashion. It is only in parshas Vayigash, when Ya’akov descended to Egypt royally, treated with pomp and deference by Pharaoh himself, that it became apparent that Yosef’s descent was in reality an utter conquest of Egypt.

Since G‑d “looked into the Torah and created the world,” this narration of Yosef’s dominion is actualized even today when we read it in the Torah. For the Torah is thereby stating the Halachah that all the above honor and benefits to Ya’akov accrue also to all Jews. And since “the deeds of the fathers are a sign for the sons,” a Jew must know that even in exile he must conduct himself as Yosef conducted himself in the exile of Egypt.10

4. A further lesson on this subject can be derived from today’s portion of the parshah. The Torah tells us that when the brothers informed Ya’akov that Yosef was still alive he did not believe them. Only when “he saw the wagons which Yosef had sent” did he believe, saying: “Yosef my son is yet alive.” The wagons symbolize the Halachic discussion in which Ya’akov and Yosef had been engaged immediately prior to Yosef’s enslavement.11 Only when Ya’akov saw that, even after so many years, Yosef still remembered the Torah they had learned before they parted, could he say “Yosef my son is still alive;” for only then was he sure that Yosef was truly “alive.”

This added to the greatness in which Ya’akov descended to Egypt. Not only was he enveloped in the royal favors bestow-ad by Pharaoh, but he was also spiritually uplifted. For Ya’akov saw that not only did Yosef’s descent into the “depravity of the earth” not affect him adversely, but “Yosef my son is still alive” —Yosef’s descent caused “the abundance of light that comes from (prior) darkness and the abundance of wisdom that comes from (prior) folly.”

This is similar to the concept of Chanukah. The Medrash tells us that the Chanukah lights “will never be extinguished.” Of the lights of the Menorah in the Bais Hamikdosh however, which existed for many generations before the time of Chanukah, this is not said. For Chanukah occurred in exile, when “the wicked Hellenic government grew mighty” and “rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will.” It was precisely this prior darkness that produced the abundance of the Chanukah lights, which thereby endure forever; as can be seen from the fact that the Chanukah Menorah has eight lights while the Menorah in the Bais Hamikdosh had only seven. This eighth light is not only additional in number, but also causes the other seven (and itself) to “never be extinguished.”12

The miracle of Chanukah with its “abundance of light” came from the “prior darkness” of the wicked Hellenic government. Even after the miracle, however, the Jews were not completely free of foreign domination, for they continued to be dependent upon the good will of the Greeks and later the Romans. Thus the “abundance of light” of Chanukah was not that which would abolish the very existence of darkness — it was not because the final redemption had come. Similarly, even Ya’akov’s descent to Egypt with the greatest of material and spiritual honor, was not the final complete redemption. Both these things provide a timely lesson for us: even when in exile, we must and can still have the concept of Chanukah. And even when in an exile in “the depravity of the earth,” one must still conduct himself in the fashion of “Yosef my son yet lives.”


5. A wonderful lesson can be learned from the conclusion of the portion of Chumash of Thursday, which states: “all the souls of the house of Ya’akov that came into Egypt were seventy.” In order for this number to be complete, thereby enabling the house of Ya’akov to enter Egypt, they had to wait for the birth of a Jewish baby girl — Yocheved. It was this baby who, as a midwife in Egypt, “kept the male babies alive,” and thereby ensured the existence of the hosts of the L‑rd — Jewish children. For this G‑d rewarded Yocheved, and made “houses” for her — she bore three children each of whom embodied three different “houses”: the house of priesthood (Aharon), the house of Levi’im (Moshe), and the house of royalty (Miriam, who was the progenitor of the royal houses of David and Moshiach). And all these things eventuated because a baby was born!

Moshiach will come because, while still in exile, we conduct ourselves in the fashion of “Yosef my son is yet alive” — we live in the Torah and Mitzvos, about which we are commanded “you shall live in them.” The Mezritcher Maggid interpreted this verse to mean that a Jew must fulfill Mitzvos in such a way that he brings life into them. For even Tefillin, which contain the name of G‑d many times, are transformed into a “live” Mitzvah only when a Jew dons them. This is what Ya’akov alluded to when he said “Yosef my son is yet alive” — that Yosef made the Torah that he learned with his father “alive.” And to accomplish this, a Jew’s body as well as his soul is needed, to perform the physical act of putting on Tefillin and thus making a complete “live” Mitzvah.

Even though the time for fulfilling Mitzvos begins from Bar Mitzvah, nevertheless, the Torah belongs to a Jew as an inheritance; and he inherits from the moment he is born. And when all the necessary souls have been brought to this earth, Moshiach will come and take all of us, “with our youth and with our elders, with our sons and our daughters,” including the newest born babe, to our Holy Land. And as in the redemption of Egypt, we will “empty the land” — we will take with us all the spiritual treasures possible that we have garnered.

In practical terms, the lessons from Zos Chanukah, Wednesday, and the portion of Chanukah of the day and week, teach us that even in the darkest time of exile, the Torah provides us with all our needs; and we need only use them for the right purposes. A Jew must know that all Jews are called by the name “Yosef,” and his conduct must be as his was. A Jew does not go into exile to elevate the G‑dly soul, but to elevate the body and animal soul, And to achieve the exodus from exile of all Jews, one must endeavor to influence another Jew to keep the Torah, beginning with the Mitzvah of Chanukah.

The above comes to fruition when the earth has been “subdued” through the Mitzvah of “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” And then our righteous Moshiach will come now, in the true and complete redemption.