1. Since today’s fast is limited to only a few hours, it would not be proper to keep those assembled here for a long time. However, since the prophet Isaiah (58:5) declares that a fast is “a day that is desirable unto G‑d,” it follows that today is also a “desirable time.” Therefore, we will speak for a short time (in quantity — a little that contains a lot — ). Those brief remarks however, will contain the potential for greater expression. The Book of Proverbs (9:9) declares “Give to a wise man and he will expand his wisdom.” Since the Jewish people are “a wise and understanding nation” (Devorim 4:6), surely these words will allow the potential for “expanding our wisdom.”

This is particularly true since these words are taken from our holy Torah, the Torah of truth, which is also the Torah of life that provides us with guidelines on how to conduct our lives. These guidelines were given by G‑d, who is the creator of the world and who controls the world. In fact, Torah transcends the nature of the world and relates to G‑d on a level above any of the world’s limitations. This level the Alter Rebbe refers to with the expression that “the essential aspect of G‑d is not the fact that He brings about the creation of the world.” Through Torah’s dissension, this essential aspect of Torah is brought down into this world (and in this world, into the lowest aspect of this world)into the aspects of deed and action, as our sages declared “Deed is the most essential” (Pirkei Avos 1:17).

Therefore, it is understandable that the present occasion, — a public fast, (which is in the Rambam’s words “one of the paths of Teshuva,”) must also bring about deed and action. It should motivate good resolutions, commitments to increase our diligence in Torah study, both in Nigleh and Chassidus, and increase our performance of the Mitzvos1 B’Hidur (in a beautiful manner) and even in a manner of Mehadrin Min HaMehadrin (one whose performance of the Mitzvos is beautiful even when compared to those who fulfill them B’Hidur. In addition, to bringing about good resolutions, our Teshuva itself must be connected with deed. The Alter Rebbe (Likkutei Torah Haazinu) writes that the essence of Teshuva is described by the verse “and the spirit returned to G‑d who gave it” (Koheles 12:7). Our return to G‑d must be in a manner in which we feel that G‑d has given us our souls, our bodies, and all the other possessions we have.

And what G‑d has given, was surely given with the condition which the Talmud (B. Basra 53a) declares is appropriate for giving gifts, that “all who give, give generously.” G‑d gives all things generously. However (in some cases), it is necessary for a Jew to bring out and openly reveal this good, which is the aspect of action in Teshuva. Through the return of our souls to G‑d, we feel (-action-) how He gave everything generously. We reveal that generosity to the point where it can be seen by our physical eyes and make an impression on the world and even on the non-Jews.

2. In particular, it is necessary to derive a lesson from the Torah events, including the approach of events connected with the present time.

That lesson can be derived from the Rambam’s description (Laws of Chanukah Ch. 3 Hal. 1) of the situation that directly proceeded the Chanukah miracle. He explains that the “Greeks made decrees against Israel, trying to nullify their religion. They prevented them from studying Torah, and fulfilling Mitzvos. They seized their money and their daughters...and pressured them very much.” Generally, Torah uses an ascending order of priorities. From the Rambam’s text, it appears that the “pressure” the Greeks applied was a more severe challenge than their efforts to prevent the practice of Torah and Mitzvos. How can that be? What challenge can be more severe to the Jewish people than the opposition to Torah and Mitzvos?

The pressure that the Greeks (and those Jews who had adopted the Greek life style) applied to the Jewish people consisted of trying to force the Jews to accept the principle that “the house of Yehudah will be as all the nations; and we will be like the gentiles, like the other families of the countries,” (Yechezkel 25:8, 20:32) heaven forbid. They wanted to break down the barriers that separates the Jews from the other nations. They wanted to use this approach in educating children, to influence them to be the same as the other nations. Therefore, the “great pressure” that the Greeks applied was a greater threat than their efforts to prevent the practice of Torah and Mitzvos. When a non-Jewish power holds the Jews back from Torah and Mitzvos, the situation only lasts for a short time and then the decree is abolished. However, when a child is educated in a manner opposite to the education demanded by the Torah, the effects are long lasting. A child’s early education influences him throughout his life.2

The process (of being like the other nations) begins with small things. The child’s path in life is lit with impure oil, a source of light that was influenced by non-Jewish ideas. On the surface, there is no difference between pure oil and impure oil, since both produce light. Yet, this is the first stage of destroying the divider that separates the Jewish people from the other nations of the world. When a Jewish child is given an education that is not acceptable to Torah law, i.e. when the “light” used comes from an impure source, besides not showing him a true path in life, it actually makes the child accept a Greek way of life. He remains a Jew, for he has no choice in that matter. Even if one sins, one remains a Jew. However, the way he leads his life (the area where he is given the opportunity to choose life) is similar to the Greeks way of life. He maintains that we must live like all the other nations. Furthermore, a Jew must chase after the non-Jew and make him a part of the Jewish nation (without conversion, merely writing him down as a part of the Jewish people).3

This then, is the lesson that we can derive from Chanukah. When we must illuminate a Jewish house and Jewish children, we must be sure that we use pure Jewish light. A light that comes from pure oil, oil that has not been touched by non-Jewish influences. Then we will have a house that is full of light, children that are full of light, and ultimately a Temple that is full of light.

Still there are those who will argue: How can we withstand the pressures of the Greeks, when we are few and weak? Nevertheless, we must answer them: numerically, we may be few, but our potential is great. We are connected with G‑d, the master of all strength and potential, the creator and controller of the world. Therefore, not only shouldn’t we succumb to the pressures of those who are temporarily “the many” and “the strong,” but we should trust that G‑d will “deliver the strong into the hands of the weak, and the many into the hands of the few.”4

Therefore, a Jew must carry out G‑d’s will with a firm commitment, without wondering what others will say or with what scorn he may be confronted. Even though we are “one lamb among seventy wolves, we need not become down-hearted. We must realize that “the shepherd is great” and that “the watchman of Israel does not sleep or slumber” (Psalms 121:4). This realization gives us the power to withstand the pressure and bring about great miracles where “the many will be delivered into the hands of the few.”

We must learn this lesson from the days of Chanukah.5 There are those who think that because they are few and weak, they must succumb to the pressure of the “strong” and “many,” they are willing to change the oil and the light with which they educate Jewish children. Chanukah teaches us that this approach runs contrary to Torah, so much so that a Jew must be willing to sacrifice his life to oppose it. Even though the present time is before Chanukah (and the miracles that are connected with it), we can still adapt the approach of self-sacrifice. We won’t be influenced by the perspective of the animal soul or by those who have adapted a Greek perspective. Then, this path will lead to success, even in our material affairs. We will witness miracles, wonders, salvation, and we will “offer thanks to Your Great Name.”

3. The above is also connected with the fifth Aliyah in Parshas Vayeishev, constituting the portion of Chumash that is connected with today. The portion describes how “Joseph was taken down into Egypt,” and how he “was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” The narrative continues explaining how “his master saw that G‑d was with him and that G‑d made successful everything he did” and how “he appointed him (overseer) over his house and gave all that he owned into his hands.” Even when Joseph was enslaved in Egypt, he behaved as befits a Jew. He followed the Halachos which Ya’akov had taught him6 and even while “in the house of the Egyptian his master,” “he saw the image of his father’s appearance.” Furthermore, his master saw “that the name of G‑d was frequent in his mouth.”7 This was natural and normal behavior even though he was the only Jew in Egypt.

This was the cause of action that caused his master to “place him in control of his house and give all that he owned into his hands.” His master did not stand in the way of his living properly as a Jew. On the contrary, he placed Joseph in control of all his affairs and allowed him to conduct them as he saw fit (which was according to the direction of the Torah).

This narrative contains a lesson for every Jew. Joseph’s descent into Egypt marked the beginning of the Egyptian exile.8 The Egyptian exile is also the beginning, source, and root of all the other exiles as our sages declared, “all the kingdoms (exiles) are called Egypt...” Joseph’s actions serve as an example of how to behave in such a situation. Even when a Jew is in Golus, “the name of G‑d must be frequent in one’s mouth” to the point where even the non-Jews will see that “G‑d is with him.” This is the only way to insure “that G‑d will make successful everything we do” and our (Egyptian master) will “appoint us as overseers of their house and give all they own into our hands.” Then not only won’t the non-Jews cause trouble to the Jews, but they will help them in all their affairs and appoint the Jews as administrators of their own businesses. This situation will prevail even in the last days of Golus, when the non-Jews possess authority.9 This is accomplished by a Jew constantly mentioning G‑d’s name while acting in accordance with the directives of the Shulchan Aruch even when dealing with a non-Jew.10

The Jews must take pride in “the pride of Ya’akov” and must derive strength from the fact that G‑d “chooses our heritage, the pride of Ya’akov whom He loves eternally.” (Psalms 47:5) This pride must be internalized to the point where it is apparent in our behavior and in our daily lives.

Then, this course of behavior will negate “the great pressures” that the non-Jews apply. It will also nullify the influence of those Jews who accept a non-Jewish perspective and who want “the House of Yehudah” to be one with all the other nations. Then we will come to the state of Chanukah — a state of rest. This is evident from the commentaries who divided into two words the name of Chanukah, — Chanu Chof-Hay, — meaning “they rested on the 25th.” Then, “all the Jews will enjoy light in their dwellings” even while in Golus.

To summarize the above, every Jew must learn a lesson from Joseph’s behavior. We must appreciate how even in Golus, while dealing with a non-Jew, we must constantly mention “G‑d’s name.” Only our bodies are in Golus. Our souls are still connected with G‑d and with Yiddishkeit. Therefore, we must bring out “the higher quality of light from darkness and the higher aspect of wisdom from foolishness” through the study of Torah and the fulfillment of Mitzvos in Exile. Particularly now at the time of Chanukah,11 we must increase the education received by every Jewish soul, and particularly, the education of Jewish children. Then we will proceed, with “our youth and our elders, our sons and our daughters” to the ultimate redemption. We will leave exile “with a great amount of property,” go to our holy land, fulfill the Mitzvos specifically related to the holiness therein,12 and then together with Moshiach “light candles in your holy sanctuary,” in the third Bais Hamikdosh, in the near future.