By the Grace of G‑d
20 Kislev1 , 5738
Brooklyn, N.Y.

To the Sons and Daughters2 of
Our People Israel, Everywhere—
G‑d bless you all!

Greeting and Blessing:

With the bright days of Chanukah approaching,3 it is time to ponder the significance of Chanukah, for our people as a whole and for the individual, especially in relation to these days and in connection with recent events.4

In general, as has often been emphasized, the purpose of a Yom Tov in Jewish life is not merely to remind us of events that occurred many years and generations ago; but that the Yom Tov and the Mitzvos connected with the Yom Tov should evoke in us the proper inner and profound response, to the extent of reliving those events anew,5 as when they first took place, so that it should have an immediate impact on all aspects of the daily conduct, in thought, word and, particularly, deed.6

In addition to the general content of all our Festivals, all of which bear witness to the fact that G‑d directs the destiny of our people with particular Divine Providence to the minutest detail, and that “The Guardian of Israel sleeps not, nor slumbers,”7 — each Festival has, of course, its special Mitzvos and aspects and teachings.

Chanukah has its distinct Mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah Lights,8 which demonstrate at once even to the physical eye—seen also by every passer-by outside, even a non-Jew—that the light goes on in the Jewish home even when it is dark and gloomy in the outside world, as emphasized by the fact that the Chanukah Lights have to be kindled after sunset, and “at the outside entrance of his home.”9

A further point, equally important, is the indication that the light comes on for Jews when they realize that although they are (to quote the prayer of V’Al Hanisim) “weak”10 and “few” in terms of physical dimensions, they are not intimidated by those who are “mighty” and “many” in physical and material resources; and, moreover, have the courage to defy the latter whenever they pose a threat to Yiddishkeit, Torah and Mitzvos, and do so with extraordinary spiritual fortitude and self-sacrifice derived from “Thy (G‑d’s) Torah” and the “Statutes of Thy Will.”11

This is how it has been throughout Jewish history—“in those days” and also “at this time.”12 Jews have always been a “small minority among the nations”13 and are no match for the nations of the world in terms of physical and material power. But in the realm of the spirit it is just the reverse; the spiritual strength of “Voice of Jacob” subdues “the hands of Esau,”14 and eventually “the elder shall serve the younger”15 —Esau helps Jacob carry out his purpose. Furthermore, the victory of the spirit is not limited to the spiritual realm, but brings about a victory also on the battlefield in the ordinary sense, the “deliverance of the mighty into the hands of the weak, and of the many into the hands of the few,”16 with all the consequences resulting from it.

* * *

This, then, is one of the teachings of the Chanukah Lights; They tell us that although the situation is that of “after sunset,” particularly in the present bleakest darkness of the last days of the Exile17 (preceding the coming of Moshiach), a Jew must not permit himself to be overawed by the darkness outside, but must illuminate his home with the light of Torah and Mitzvos18 (symbolized by the Chanukah Lights), and, moreover, not rest at that, but let the light19 shine forth “outside”, to let the world see that the light of Torah and Mitzvos irradiates the Jewish life. And since light inevitably dispels darkness,20 the effect is sure to be that “all the nations of the earth will see that the Name of G‑d is called upon you, and they will be afraid of you”21 —afraid to do you any harm.

To be sure, it is also necessary to take tangible action22 —exemplified by kindling a physical light, using a wick and oil23 or the like—indeed, this is how the Mitzvah is actually carried out,24

But this brings forth immediately the Infinite Light from Above both into the home and “outside” (into the outside world), so that the whole world sees it with such clear perception that the “hands of Esau” not only become impotent25 to harm the Jewish people, G‑d forbid, but will be ready to aid them in every way possible.

Translating the above in terms of the personal everyday life, it means that a Jew must not permit himself to be affected by the crass materiality of the mundane world, but, on the contrary, he must become its master and make it subservient to his higher purpose, namely, serving G‑d in all his affairs, in accordance with the precept, “all your actions (even in mundane affairs) should be for the sake of Heaven” and “know Him (G‑d) in all your ways”26 —until the “darkness is transformed into light.”27

* * *

In view of the special significance of this deeply cherished Mitzvah28 of the Chanukah Lights, it is the general custom,29 as Rabbinic authorities have ruled, that all Jews perform this Mitzvah in a manner of Mehadrin min Hamehadrin30 —with the utmost excellence, namely, by lighting them in an increased number each night of Chanukah. Although the Mitzvah of Ner Chanukah is fulfilled to perfection by lighting only one light, the first night of Chanukah, and even more perfectly by increasing it to two on the second night, Jews still are not satisfied, and keep on increasing the number by an additional light each successive night of Chanukah—for the utmost Hiddur (excellence), making it ever brighter and brighter.

* * *

May G‑d grant that everyone, man and woman, in the midst of all our people Israel, should exemplify the teachings of the Chanukah Lights in actual practice, and this will hasten the fulfillment of the Divine prophecy that “even if darkness will cover the earth and a thick cloud the nations, but on you will shine forth G‑d”31 and as in those days “they kindled lights in Thy holy courts”32 we should merit to kindle lights in the Third and Eternal33 Beis Hamikdosh, as it is also written, “And His Tent (the Beis Hamikdosh) will be in Shalem (Jerusalem),”34 with the coming of our Righteous Moshiach,35 may he come very soon indeed and redeem us and lead us upright to our land.

With esteem and with blessing for
a bright Chanukah and a bright always,

/Signed: Menachem Schneerson/