Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Chanukah 5631 First Night Second Ma'amar

Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev writes in Kedushas Levi that each year on Chanukah the strength of the original miracle of Chanukah is revealed and God showers His nation with salvation and redemption. The strength of the original miracle is a spiritual enlightenment which manifests in the physical world as salvation and redemption. The Sfas Emes explains that we can feel this spiritual enlightenment to the extent that we separate from the physical and attach to the spiritual.

How can we do this? Is there a technique we can use to connect to the spiritual? The Sfas Emes teaches us that there is. We can use the mitzvah to help us connect to that which is beyond the natural world. In fact, the Sfas Emes explains that this is the main characteristic of this mitzva and, in fact, of all mitzvos. So, to facilitate this attachment to the spiritual, Chazal gave us the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah candles. Mitzvos are the tools that we use to turn mundane physical activities into spiritual endeavors. [A mitzvah is imbued with a spiritual aura. When a person performs a mitzvah, the spiritual aura of the mitzvah actually surrounds him. (see Nefesh HaChaim 1:12] Contemplating the spiritual enlightenment of the original miracle and its connection to the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah candles helps us to attach to the enlightenment and to feel it.

The Chidushei HaRim continues this idea. He teaches that Chazal established the days of Chanukah as days of praise and thanks for the same reason. Praising God and thanking Him for the Chanukah salvation opens up the spiritual enlightenment of these days so that they affect us and enlighten us. The Chidushei HaRim teaches that this is the idea underlying the pasuk in Tehillim, “זֵכֶר עָשָׂה לְנִפְלְאוֹתָיו .../He made a remembrance for His wonders …” So that we may feel the spiritual enlightenment of the ancient miracles in our days, God turned them into mitzvos.

May we merit using all the mitzvos and the mitzva of lighting the Chanuka candles in particular as the tool they were meant to be, to help us come closer to God and receive His good.


meny said...

Hello Moshe David,

I'm a huge fan of your blog and i often quote you (and of course the Sfas Emes) Shabbat morning after the minyan. But I have got a question for you. As you are quoted the Nefesh Hachaim, do you see contradictions between Rav Chaïm and the Sfas Emes in matter of Hashkafa ? (As as it is often said that Nefesh Hachaïm is the mitnaged point of view about the way Hashem relates Himself to our physical world).

Hanukka Sameah

Moshe David Tokayer said...

Firstly, thank you for your kind words. My purpose is to spread the Sfas Emes's message and it warms my heart to know that the Sfas Emes is being discussed because of my work. Thank you for playing an important part in the spread of the Sfas Emes's teachings.

Surprisingly, I have not noticed any major differences in hashkafa between the Nefesh HaChaim and the Sfas Emes. I am not all that great a scholar so I may be missing or overlooking things but I've found that they share a lot in common. Both the Nefesh HaChaim and the Sfas Emes stress the importance of our actions on a ruchnius level and how much we affect olamos and thereby, the world around us. They both stress the importance of learning Torah.

The Sfas Emes has an important message in that, with the proper intent, everything we do can be transformed into a mitzvah. I haven't come across this idea in the Nefesh HaChaim. But I don't know that the Nefesh HaChaim would disagree.

In fact, many times, as in this ma'amar, I find back up for the Sfas Emes in the Nefesh HaChaim. It would be an interesting study to do a methodical and systematic comparison.