By the Grace of G‑d
In the Days of Chanukah, 5733
Brooklyn, N.Y.

To the Sons and Daughters
of our People Israel, Everywhere
G‑d bless you all!

Greeting and Blessing:

Many are the interpretations and lessons derived from these Chanukah days. Basically, the essential significance of Chanukah is the dedication1 of the Mizbe’ach (Altar) and of the Beth Hamikdosh, as explained in the special prayer of “V’al Hanissim”: “Then Your children entered the Sanctuary of Your House, cleansed Your Sanctuary and purified Your Mikdosh, and kindled lights in Your holy Courts2.”

Hence it is also the event of the dedication of the Beth Hamikdosh that contains basic instructions for every Jew, man or woman3, at all times and in all places,

Since the purpose of all commemorative days in the life of our people is to teach us practical lessons from “those days”—“at this time.”

The essence of every Jewish home and its fulfillment is to serve as an abode and sanctuary for the Shechinah (Divine Presence). More particularly—every Jew, man or woman, is a sanctuary and abode for G‑d’s Presence. This is what our Sages4 of blessed memory taught us by their commentary on the verse, “Let them make Me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell in them”—“in each and every Jew.” Meaning, that the end purpose of every act and service in connection with the Mikdosh is to draw and bring in G‑dliness into each and every Jew5.

Since the Beth Hamikdosh was destroyed “because of our sins”—it is through Teshuvah and good deeds, through the performance of the Mitzvoth throughout the duration of the Exile6 by each and every Jew, that the sanctuary within each of us is built and fortified, while bringing closer the redemption of our Jewish people by our righteous Moshiach, who will also restore the central Beth Hamikdosh on its site, and on an even higher level7.

What happened with the Beth Hamikdosh in the time of Mattisyohu ben Yochonon Kohen Godol8 is (on the spiritual level) relevant to the “Sanctuary” that is within every Jew, here and now. The environment, society, etc. often “cause them to forget Your Torah and lead them astray from the statues of Your Will9”—

With emphasis on Your Torah—studying the Torah because it is, and as it is, G‑d’s Torah; an infinitely higher concept than that described as “your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations.”10 Similarly, the “statutes of Your Will ”—performing all the Mitzvoth11, including the so-called rational precepts, on their highest level as G‑d-given statutes, with the sole intent to do the Will of G‑d12.

It therefore behooves everyone who has G‑d at heart to follow the example of those dedicated Hasmoneans, to the point of Mesiras Nefesh, disregarding the overwhelming odds of “(physically) weak and few against the mighty and many.” And in the end G‑d will take up his cause and ensure his everlasting triumph, and he will celebrate Chanukah—the dedication of his inner Beth Hamikdosh—“to give thanks and praise to His great Name.”

* * *

Now, among the Mitzvoth of Chanukah—viz., reciting the whole Hallel every day, reciting V’al Hanissim, reading of the Torah, prohibition of eulogizing (the dead) and fasting, and lighting the candles—it is the last which comes first in time (although the victory on the battlefield preceded the miracle with the cruse of oil). It is with this Mitzvah of kindling the Chanukah Lights that the festival of Chanukah is ushered in—for the time of the lighting begins at sunset. Moreover, it is the traditional practice13 (Minhag—which is also part of Torah) to “ascend in holiness14”, to increase the number of candles from day to day.

Thus, the emphasis on the Chanukah Lights underscores a great and essential principle, namely, that it is necessary to scrutinize even “the oils that are in the Sanctuary15” to make sure that the oil has not been defiled. Be it noted that the oil in question was not intended for consumption, but for lighting, and one would have thought that it did not matter if it was momentarily defiled. Yet, absolute purity is essential.

And it is for this miracle with the oil that the festival of Chanukah was instituted16. This pointedly teaches us that the light which illuminates the Beth Hamikdosh (the general as well as individual “Beth Hamikdosh”) must be pure, without the slightest defilement.

The light that illuminates the way of the Jew, man and woman, in their daily life, is defined as “a Mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light.” This lamp and light must be carefully guarded that it be not contaminated, and then the road will be secure.

For our Sages17 of blessed memory assured us that these lights will never cease, meaning also that their lesson is eternal, for all times and places, and, as mentioned, for every Jewish home, and every Jew and Jewess.

To the end that the entire conduct of the house and of every person living in it, particularly in regard to the education of the sons and daughters (Chanukah and Chinuch18 being derived from the same root19), should be illuminated and permeated with the light of the Torah, pure light, and in a steadily growing measure, until it will illuminate also the darkness outside, as is also indicated by the Chanukah Lights which are kindled at the entrance of the house, outside. So that one be justly able to declare: “I have been like a wonderful example to many, for You are my stronghold20. And as it was in those days at this time, when “You stood up for them in the time of their distress, fought their battle, etc. and accomplished great deliverance and redemption.”

The fulfillment of the Mitzvoth (rectifying “our sins” which are the cause of the Exile), and the Mitzvah of the Chanukah Lights in particular כמובן ממשנ"ת שעי"ז כליא ריגלא דתרמודאי – אותיות מורדת (אוה"ת חנוכה ע' תתקמא, ב. ובכ"מ)., brings closer the fulfillment of the Divine promise of the true and complete Redemption through our righteous Moshiach and the restoration of the Beth Hamikdosh21.

May G‑d grant that it should be so speedily in our own time.

With blessing for brightly illuminated
Chanukah days, illuminating also all
the days of the year—with an ever increasing light.

/Signed/ Menachem Schneerson