In the bracha Shehecheyanu, we say, “You have brought about nissim for our avos, b’yamim ha haim b’zman ha ze.”
Isn’t it amazing that we remember what happened to our Avos at a certain season?
What is it about a certain season that has kedusha?
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I want to tell you a story.
The most remarkable day of my life was January 10, 1966, which (I later found out) was the 18th of Teves. On that day I met Hashem for the first time. I was twenty three years old.
My story is not the typical story of an observant Jew. I was raised in affluent circumstances on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, but there was no Yiddishkeit – at least no obvious Yiddishkeit – visible in our lifestyle.
We lived like goyim! My favorite day was December 25, with the tree, the stockings, Santa Claus … you name it! We didn’t know about Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Pesach … even Chanukah! Shabbos was unheard of! I did not know the word “Torah.”
We attended sophisticated private schools with other affluent Jewish kids who did not care that they were Jewish. We had wonderful parents and lived what is called “The American Dream.” In high school I met my future wife. By some miracle, she was Jewish!
I was sixteen and she was fifteen.
But the American Dream is a nightmare, and for a Jewish kid, if you listen to the voice of your neshoma, you can’t breathe. My life was out of control, and my soul was like the “yona” which Noach sent out from the taiva, which “could not find a resting place for the sole of its foot.” As a child, I literally did not have a moment of peace.
For twenty three years, I searched for some place to rest my soul, some way of life which I knew was true and real, but there was nothing. Of course, I didn’t believe in G-d! I mean, where is G-d? If you were a monk in the Middle Ages you believed in G-d, because you were living in darkness, but I was a sophisticated member of the elite twentieth century intellectual generation, and we knew better!
Except why was I miserable every second?
We got married when we were still in college. That’s when things got tough, because marriage doesn’t work without Hashem. It just doesn’t work. There is a famous saying: Ish and Ishah contain “yud” and a “hey,” which stand for the Name of Hashem. An ideal marriage is: ish, ishah and Hashem. Then it can work! Take out the “yud” and “hey” and you get “aish … fire” and that is what we experienced.
On January 10, 1966 I awoke at 2 a.m. I was crying. We had been married 2 ½ years and our entire life was falling apart. My world was exploding! I was falling down the Rabbit Hole like Alice in Wonderland. There was no bottom. It was the end!
And then a little feather of a thought brushed my cheek as I fell.
A feather! A thought ….
MAYBE THERE IS A G-D!!!
It can’t be! What a joke! NO way!
But then I realized: if your life is falling apart, YOU NEED G-D!
“G-D, IF YOU ARE THERE … SAVE ME!”
At that moment my life turned around, and I began the path – Baruch Hashem along with my wife! – to Torah. We still didn’t open the Torah until eight years later, when we met Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, but it all began on January 10, 1966 at 2 a.m. And that was the 18th day of Teves.
I feel – I don’t think I was hallucinating – that a malach came to us on that day in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Malachim are real. We greet them every Friday night! Our Avos were familiar with malachim.
And every year since then, in the week around the 18th of Teves, it seems the malach returns and miracles happen for our family, big miracles. One example: a gigantic car crash on the Major Deegan Expressway at midnight. Our car was crushed between two other cars, one of which was driven by a maniac driving the wrong way. It was one of those huge crashes you see on the highway, with fire engines, five police cars and five ambulances. Our car was crushed from both sides at 60 mph … and we walked out without a scratch.
WITHOUT A SCRATCH!
The cops were all shaking their heads and saying, “How come you are still alive?”
The malach saved us. It was the 14th of Teves.
What is it about this season? Why did the malach come then, during Teves? Why not Adar or Nissan or Tishrai or Kislev?
Do you know what is unique about Rosh Chodesh Teves?
Absolutely unique. There is no other Rosh Chodesh like this.
This is the only Rosh Chodesh in the entire year when we recite Full Hallel!
(Why? Because it occurs during Chanukah!)
And what do we say in Hallel Shalem that is omitted during Half Hallel?
“The pains of death encircled me. The confines of the grave found me. I found trouble and sorrow. [But] then I invoked the Name of Hashem: ‘Please Hashem! Save my soul!’” (Tehillim 116)
These are the words I said on January 10, 1966! Dovid Ha Melech says in this Kapital Tehillim exactly the words I said when I was falling down the Rabbit Hole.
And Hashem heard my words and rescued me!
What I want to say is that there are seasons. Certain times of year are set aside for unique types of avodathrough which we can draw closer to Hashem in a unique way:
· Mi’shenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha.
· On Pesach we are liberated from darkness.
· On Shavuos the Torah is presented to us.
· Elul and Tishrai are the time of teshuva, returning to G-d.
· Kislev is light.
My friends, this is a serious time in the history of the world.
It says, “B’motzae Shviis ben Dovid Bo….” I am not predicting anything, but it would not be surprising if Ben Dovid came this year. The world is in deep darkness and we desperately need the leader of Klal Yisroel to unite us and bring the light of Torah into the world.
This is not a luxury. This is life and death.
I intentionally distance myself from the news, but it was brought to my attention that recently the President of the United States signed a measure which makes it the law of the land to legitimize a deviation from the Torah which is so severe that Chazal tell us this deviation was the cause of the Mabul which destroyed the entire world.
My friends, do you understand what we are facing?
This Chanukah, when we light the Menorah, we are trying to ignite the Great Light which will emanate from the Bais Hamikdosh and illuminate the entire world. This is not a game. If this Light is not kindled in the Bais Hamikdosh, then the alternative is a catastrophe which words cannot describe. Hashem created the world with “ohr,” but darkness is filling the earth. The Greek-Roman descendants of Edom are trying to tear down Torah, and that means they are trying to attack the People of Torah, Am Yisroel.
Why is Moshiach not here yet? He is very close, but we are not getting it.
We have to know that Edom is lost. The entire culture of darkness which surrounds us is corrupt to the core. Like Mitzraim it will be lost. Like Yavan it will be lost.
But we hang on to it as if it were truth. We have to know …
“The House of Yaakov will be a fire and House of Yosef a flame … and the house of Esav like straw. They will kindle … and consume them and there will be no survivor of the house of Esav, for Hashem has spoken.... Then ‘moshiim’ will ascend Har Tzion to judge Esav’s mountain, and the kingdom will be Hashem’s.” (Haftaras Vayishlach/Ovadiah 1)
This is the flame we are kindling on Chanukah, and this is the season in which the Great Light from the Bais Hamikdosh can illuminate the world. There is no choice.
We have to bring this Great Light into the world!
A LICHTIGE CHANUKAH!
Avoda: Spiritual work
Bais Hamikdosh: The Holy Temple
Ben Dovid: Moshiach, the Messiah, the descendant of David
Chazal: The Rabbis of the Mishna and Gemora
Hallel: Special prayers said on Rosh Chodesh
Mabul: The Great Flood
Malach: Angel (pl. Malachim)
Mitzraim: Ancient Egypt
Rosh Chodesh: First day of a Jewish Month
Teves: The Jewish Month which begins during Chanukah
Vort: Torah explanation of life
Yavan: Ancient Greece