07 Dec Chanukah
The Chochmas Shlomo teaches that if someone in jail is given the choice of either lighting the Chanukah candles in prison or to leave the jail for a day to say Hallel, he should choose to leave and say Hallel. Hallel is more important than lighting the Chanukah candles because these days were established for Hallel and Hoidayah (praise).
The Misechta Sofrim says that on Chanukah we should say Hallel המיענב, to chant it pleasantly and joyfully.
There was a woman who suffered from a dibbuk. The Divrei Chaim of Tzanz zt’l suggested that she stand by the doorway of the beis kneses when they say Hallel on Chanukah. She did so, and the dibbuk left her.
Like all mitzvos, Hallel should be said with a hislahavus, with passion. Although we will be saying Hallel for eight days straight, we should strive to make the Hallel new, exciting and joyous, each day. The Baal HaTanya zt’l had a great chassid called Reb Shmuel Minkas zt’l. Once, he asked a melamed, “What are you teaching now?”
The melamed replied that he was teaching Bava Metziah. Reb Shmuel Minkas asked, “The first Mishnah of Bava Metzia repeats some of its phrases twice. The Mishnah writes, “This person says that he found the garment and this person says that he found the garment.”
The Mishnah says, “This one says that it is all mine, and this one says that it is all mine.”
“My question is,” Reb Shmuel Minkas said in good humor, “in the siddur, by Hallel, there are also some words that are repeated. The Siddur writes the first words in large print, and the second words are written in smaller print. Why doesn’t the Mishnah do the same? When the phrase is repeated, it should be written in smaller print.” The melamed laughed, but he didn’t have an answer. Reb Shmuel Minkas said, “I will tell you the reason. When a person claims that the garment is his, he says it with all his heart. He really means it; he really wants it. Therefore, the words (both times) are written in large print. But in Hallel, when the words are repetitious people become tired and are uninspired. The second time, the words aren’t said with the same enthusiasm as the first time around. Therefore the first set of words is written in large letters but the second set is written in smaller print.”
This problem certainly can occur when we say Hallel for eight consecutive days. We can lose the excitement and the joy, and it can chalilah turn into a routine. Therefore, we must strive to say the Hallel each day, with joy and with passion.
Halachah states that one shouldn’t eat before davening Shacharis. There was an elderly gadol who was careful with this halachah. This was a bit of a problem because he davened Shacharis very late each day. He was old and ill and it wasn’t good for his health. His family tried to convince him to maybe daven earlier or to eat before davening because he needed it for his health, but he refused. One of his children went to his doctor. “Maybe you can convince our father to eat earlier?”
The doctor spoke with the elderly man, “I have two questions: My first question is, I don’t understand why Yidden daven the very same prayer each day. It is disrespectful. Even before a human king, one doesn’t repeat his words daily. He changes his requests and his praises each time he speaks to the king. Certainly, one shouldn’t repeat his words before the King of the world. “My second question,” the doctor continued, “is why do you daven so late? Can’t you pray earlier?”
The elderly rav replied, “Your questions are very good, but one question is the answer to the other one. You say that it’s improper to repeat the same exact words each day, and I agree with you entirely. Therefore, I try to have new intentions every day. Although the words are the same, I make certain that my meanings are deeper and different each day. Thus Hashem, who knows people’s thoughts, receives a brand new tefillah each day. But to do so, I need time to prepare. It isn’t easy to pray a new prayer each day. Preparation takes time. That is the reason why I daven late.”
Reb Yankel Kojhelik zt’l came from Europe to live in Eretz Yisrael. He assumed that when he came to Eretz Yisrael he would feel its immense kedushah, but he was surprised to discover that he actually felt more spirituality in chutz le’aretz. He spoke with Rebbe Shlomke of Zvhil zt’l about this. The Rebbe of Zvhil explained, “When one carries water on his shoulders, it’s heavy. But when he goes to the mikvah, and is entirely immersed under the water, there’s a lot of water on his shoulders but he doesn’t feel the weight. Because when one is entirely immersed in something, he doesn’t realize what he’s carrying. Now that you are in Eretz Yisrael, totally immersed in the holiness, you don’t realize what you have.
This is one of the reasons that people become less inspired with Hallel, Al HaNissim and with the hadlakas haneir of Chanukah, as Chanukah goes by. At first, they are excited and inspired but as they become more and more immersed in its holiness, they lose sight of all the goodness that they have. We should recognize that the holiness of Chanukah increases each day and we should continue to endeavor to experience its wonderful light and joy.