Around 1980, a man was stabbed in Crown Heights on his way back from shul. The Rebbe lamented about how dark the golus is, as it says “shluchei einon nizokin, lo bahalichoson vlo bchazaroson - people doing a mitzvah are not hurt, not going to it or coming from it,” and while exile hides the true, even this is hidden.

As always, we have an obligation to call out to Hashem.

Yet how could this have happened on Chanukah? We must first cry out to Hashem and demand the final Redemption, but the question remains.

The Rebbe pointed out in a letter that “the best way to answer (another tragic passing) is the truth. There are special neshomos – souls, who after they have completed their life's work, they go above and bring down blessings for their family” and for everyone, and hasten the Redemption.

Still, we must cry out and demand better.

At the same time, we need to take this seriously, as Hashem's Torah demands that we take a life lesson from all that we see and hear.

Chanukah isn't some holiday of frivolity. It's the culmination of all of the High Holidays, after a time in between which is also meant to use out the blessings and inspiration we received during the month of Tishrei. And while Chanukah is full of miracles, the holiday came about through great self-sacrifice, including many people giving their lives for G-d.

Again, we must demand better. Still we need to take what happened to heart.

Today the lesson of Chanukah is more needed than ever, perhaps even more than at the time of Chanukah itself. Chanukah was the struggle against hedonism, a level of materialism that was attacking G-d and decent life. This is also what the battle before the final and ultimate Redemption is all about.  It is a spiritual battle for the heart and soul of Judaism and all things that happen must serve as a rallying cry to take part.

A few years ago, three kids were tragically murdered in Israel, HY”D and they saved thousands from dying after (the Rosh Hashana plot and the underground tunnels). But that was during the 3 weeks, not on Chanukah.

Rabi Yosef Caro, the “Mechaber” who alone is called the “Mechaber” the sole compiler of the Book of Jewish Law, was supposed to pass away Al Kiddush Hashem – with self-sacrifice for G-d. Because of some lack of something, the merit/opportunity to pass way for G-d's Name was taken away and never presented to him. Instead he compiled the Shulchan Aruch – code of Jewish Religious Law for all following generations. The Rebbe would give over this fact and point out how his compilation of the Shulchan Aruch did not equal the effect of passing away Al Kiddush Hashem or the effect that such a passing has on this world.

It also says that the passing of the righteous is an atonement for all. Still we must scream out to Hashem, as did our Forefathers for far lesser people. We must also take this seriously.

Rabi Uriel Malka, may his merit protect us, who had taught in Denver for years, passed on while heroically putting out a fire in Israel on Har HaZeisim on the first night of Chanukah 7 years ago. He was a volunteer firefighter, but 44 people went up that night, the same as the number of Chanukah candles. The next year or so, a tree shaped like a perfect Menorah appeared on Har HaZeisim.

Chanukah is serious. Jews gave their lives and that's how Chanukah came about.

We must demand an end to all suffering and for the Final Redemption. It's an absolute Torah obligation to pray for one's needs and demand revealed good for others.

But we also need to take things seriously.

The person is called “a small world” by our Sages. There's the hedonism all around and then there are the enemies within the person, the unG-dly and material inclination. Chanukah is about lighting up the soul so that the unG-dly inclination can be thoroughly defeated and Chanukah is the time to do it.

This comes about through fighting for G-d, praying and thereby connecting with G-d and rejecting the modern Hellenism that is all around. It also comes about by fighting an absolute war against the evil inclination, which itself brings about salvation.  By winning the materialistic war against G-dliness today we bring blessings to the whole world and usher in the final Redemption through Moshiach, which is promised throughout Torah.

Tools to do this are Torah Study, specifically Tanya and Kuntres UMaayon - which give us the ability to take on the yetzer hara and win:


Kuntres UMaayon

The Rebbe also answered someone in the 1950s who asked about a flood in Europe that had caused hundreds of deaths and how Hashem could allow the survivors to have decades of suffering (the truth is that G-d heals eventually and why someone would ask about a flood instead of what had happened, R”L, 10 years prior seems strange – but questions are raised based on the immediate and maybe a smaller tragedy was digested more than an unfathomable one that the Torah already hinted to).

The Rebbe answered that each soul has been around for thousands of years and will be around eternally. Therefore, what is even a years of suffering in the world as we know it compared to all that? (Still the Rebbe would demand revealed blessings for all in the fullest and pointed out how doing so is the main part of Torah).

We call out to Hashem to send the ultimate Redemption and the resurrection of the dead (as Torah promises eternal reward for the body that does G-d's Will after it is purified – to be clear, Non-Jews who follow the 7 mitzvos given to Noah also have eternal reward – as stated in Sanhedrin and Midrash).

But we also need to call out to ourselves. If the family, half of whom perished, May Hashem save all – never again please G-d Almighty – awaken each of us to fight our own Chanukah by following G-d no matter what and by thoroughly ignoring the garbage and evil of the world, doing so in their merit, then it will be as if each of them had lived like the number of years that people lived before the Flood when the earth was stronger. They are with us. Let us fight in their merit.

Rabbi Sirota in Denver, may he live long, always mentions how we greet mourners with the Name “HaMokom – May the One Who is Everywhere Comfort” because G-d who is with us here is G-d who is with them revealed up there and connects us with them. Let us work down here in the merit of those special souls who were so tragically taken one night ago.

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