Chanoch Lana'ar

Rabbi Wagensberg
Chanukah
Chanoch Lana'ar

Last week we spoke about Yosef being described as a "na'ar" (youth, lad, child; Parshas Vayeishev, 37:2). The Zohar (Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun Ayin, pg. 137a) said that this description teaches us that Yosef was a gilgul (reincarnation) of Chanoch who was also called a "na'ar" in the verse "Chanoch Lana'ar" (teach the youth; Mishlei 22:6). Chanoch had to come back into this world because although he was a tzaddik (righteous person), he was only righteous for himself. Meaning, he stayed at home involved in Torah study and prayer, but he did not go out to teach others about Hashem and Torah values (Chasam Sofer, Parshas Lech Lecha).

Chanoch's passivity led to the destruction of all those people in the Great Flood. Therefore, Chanoch had to come back as Yosef who left his home and country to teach the other members of his family how to hold on Jewishly in spite of being surrounded by the decadent Egyptian society. When Yosef fortified himself against immorality, he taught by example how everybody else could withstand temptation. It worked! The Jews in Egypt never assimilated with their Egyptian counterparts (Vayikra Rabba, 32:5).

The Shela (Parshas Mikeitz) adds that Chanoch ties into Channukah as well. This can be seen by the fact that the name "Chanoch" is found within the word "Channukah."

The Shela goes on to say that on Channukah there was a Chanukas Habayis (inauguration of the Temple). After the Yevanim (Greeks) attacked, the Beis Hamikdash (Temple) had to be rededicated towards Avoodas Hashem (service of God) and not towards idolatry that the Yevanim wanted to introduce.

On "Channukah" there was also a "Chinuch" (education) to the world. After the Yevanim infiltrated, the world needed to be reeducated about Torah values which are antithetical to Greek culture.

This world that was educated was created by Hashem with the Hebrew letter hey (Menachos, chap. 3, "Hakometz Rabba, pg. 29b; Parshas Bereishis 2:4). Therefore, if you add the letter "hey" to the word "Chinuch", you get "Channukah". This teaches us that on Channukah, there was a "chinuch" to the world that was created with the letter "hey."

The only aspect of this Shela which needs further clarification is the connection between Chanoch and Channukah. What is the relationship between the two? Moreover, Chanoch's gilgul, Yosef, is also connected to Channukah. The name Yosef is numerically 156. This is the same numerical value as the words "Melech Yavan" (King of Greece). It is also the same numerical value as the name "Antiyochus" (156) who was the King of Greece. (Zera Kodesh, Channukah, Leil Hey and Bnei Yissaschar, Kislev-Teves, 4:34, in the name of the Megaleh Amukos).

This means to say that Yosef had the power to counteract what Antiyochus, Melech Yavan wanted to do. The question is, "How does Yosef destroy the efforts of Antoyochus, Melech Yavan?"

Another feature of Channukah deserves our attention. The Magen Avraham (Rabbi Avraham Gombiner, Poland, 1633-1683, Orach Chaim, chap. 670) says that on Channukah there is a custom to give charity specifically to children who are poor. This is where we get the custom of giving children "Channukah Gelt" (Channukah money). Why does such a custom exist on Channukah?

Furthermore, in the "Al Hanisim" prayer that is inserted into the Shmoneh Esrei (Silent Prayer) and Bentching (Grace After Meals) says, "When the wicked Greek kingdom rose up against Your people, Israel, to make them forget Your Torah..."

How did the Greeks intend on making us forget the Torah? We are talking about people who spent their entire lives studying the Torah. How can you just rip that information out of their brains? How exactly did the Greeks plan on causing us to forget about the Torah?

The Shvilei Pinchas says that although one cannot forcibly cause another to forget his learning, it is possible to cause the Jewish people to forget the Torah. The Greeks wanted to prevent the Jewish people from giving their children a Jewish education. The Yevanim wanted to substitute a Torah education with Greek philosophy and Greek mythology.

If Jewish children are not given a Jewish education, eventually, the Jews will know nothing about Torah. This is because the older generation will pass on, and a new secularized generation will take their places. This is how the Greeks intended on causing us to forget the Torah.

When the Chashminaim (Hasmoneans) fought the Greeks, it was with the intention of continuing Jewish education to the children. This is what the battle was about.

The Gemara (Sota, chap. 7, "Eilu Ne'emarin", pg. 33a; with Rashi there) says that even Jewish children from the Hasmonean family took up arms to fight the Greeks off. Even the Jewish children of that era appreciated the value of a solid Jewish education. The war began before Yom Kippur of that year. The battle continued on Yom Kippur itself. On that Yom Kippur, Yochanan, Kohen Gadol (the High Priest), entered the Holy of Holies to do the Avoda (service) of Yom Kippur. While he was in there, he heard a Bas Kol (Heavenly Voice) that said, "Natzchu Talya" (The children have been victorious). Hashem meant to say that the Jewish commitment to Jewish education has overcome the Greek's commitment to abolish it.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that this explains the connection between Chanoch and Channukah. Although Chanoch was a tzaddik, he failed by not reaching out to others in an attempt to bring them closer to God. Channukah candles, however, represent the light of Torah. Lighting the candles outside of our homes shows us that we are supposed to bring that light to the people who are hanging out on the streets. Lighting those candles when it gets dark displays our desire to bring that light to those who are living in the dark.

Channukah candles are supposed to be "mechanech" (educate) others about the light of Torah. Therefore, Channukah candles are meant to repair the damage that was done by Chanoch who did not go out to educate others. This is why the name Chanoch is found within the name Channukah. Channukah is meant to fix the mistake of Chanoch.

However, the Maggid of Koznitz (Avodas Yisrael, Channukah) points out that although we are supposed to light the Channukah candles outside, if it is "dangerous" to do so, one should light on the table inside of his house (Shabbos, chap. 2, "Bameh Madlikin", pg. 21b). This "danger" is not limited to anti-Semitism. This "danger" also refers to the danger of becoming negatively influenced by the temptations which are found out there on the streets.

There is always a concern that by going out to bring others closer to God, maybe they will bring you further away from God. If this is truly the case, then, it's better to light indoors and concentrate on strengthening oneself.

This serves as a tremendous defense for Chanoch. The reason why he did not venture outside was because he was concerned that instead of him bringing others closer to God, they might bring him further away from God. Chanoch could have wound up joining the others in their evil ways. Chanoch would have perished in the Mabul (flood). What would that have accomplished? So, he remained in his home, concentrating on strengthening himself.

However, there was something Chanoch could have done without jeopardizing his own spirituality. He could have reached out to the children of his generation. The children who have not yet tasted the taste of sin could have been taught about the beauty of Torah. Chanoch would not have been negatively affected by them because they were still innocent.

Chanoch could have raised an entire generation of people who would have been close to God without compromising his own religiosity. Chanoch could have circumvented the flood. His failure to do so sentenced him to be reincarnated into somebody who would set things straight.

The Avodas Yisrael says that this is why there is a custom on Channukah to specifically give children tzaddaka. This demonstrates that the purpose of Channukah is to teach the children about the sweetness of Torah. We want them to feel that we are there for them. We want them to feel that we will take care of them. This will ensure that they remain committed to Torah.

This also explains Yosef's connection to Channukah. Yosef was described as a "na'ar" not just to teach us that he was a gilgul of another "na'ar", Chanoch but, Yosef was described as a "Na'ar" to teach us that Yosef reached out to children in an attempt to keep them on the path of Torah. Those children were the sons of Bilha and Zilpa who were being ridiculed by the sons of Leah. Right after the Torah calls Yosef a "na'ar", it says, "With the sons of Bilha and with the sons of Zilpa" (Parshas Vayeishev, 37:2, Rashi there citing Bereishis Rabba 84:7).

Those children were kids at risk. They did not feel accepted by the others. This could have led them OTD (off the derech (path) of Torah). Yosef went to them frequently in order to be mekarev them (to bring them closer to God; Rashi, Vayeishev, 37:2, citing Bereishis Rabba, 84:7). Since Channukah was all about educating the children, Yosef is very much connected to it.

If Channukah is all about reaching out to others to come back, then, obviously, we are saying that everybody can do teshuva (repent). This is why this world was created with the letter hey (Menachos, chap. 3, "Hakomets Rabba", pg. 29b). It is because this world is likened to the letter hey. Just as there is a hollow space underneath a hey through which a person can drop, similarly, in this world, a person can "drop out" from his responsibilities to God. Everybody has free choice to drop out if they want to.

However, the letter hey also has a space between its left leg and its roof, teaching us that if anybody wants to return to Hashem by doing teshuva, he can climb in through the window at the top (Menachos, ibid).

Therefore "Channukah" means "Chinuch" with a letter "hey" teaching us that as we are "mechanech" others about Hashem and Torah, we are also saying that they can climb back in through the window to do "teshuva", represented by the "hey."

Therefore, it is not surprising to find that the last possible time of doing teshuvah from this past year's sins, which began during Elul, is on "Zos Channukah" (the eighth day of Channukah; Ta'amei Haminhagim, Channukah, Remez 840, citing Sefer Bnei Binyamin, in the name of Reb Dovid from Dinov). This is alluded to in the verse, "B'zos Yechupar Avone" (with this sin will be atoned; Yeshaya, 27:9). The word "B'zos" in this verse is an allusion to "Zos Channukah". Last year's teshuva is accepted until then.

According to the Arizal (Sha'ar Hakavanos, Tefillin, Derush 2, pg. 8), the left leg of the letter hey must be written on a slant, with the bottom part pointing outside. This is called "Pesiya L'bar" (a step towards the outside). This further illustrates the need to step out of our comfort zones in reaching out to others, helping them to do teshuva.

Since Yosef did just that, the letter hey was added to his name, as it says, "Eidus B'Yehosef Samo (He appointed it as a testimony for Yehosef; Tehillim, 81:6). When the vowels are changed, the word "samo" (appointed) can be read as "shemo" (his name). This means that Yehosef was his name. When did he receive this new name? The conclusion of this verse tells us, "When he went out over the land of Egypt."

When Yosef took that "step out" of his comfort zone and went to Egypt to help others get closer to God and to do "teshuvah", the letter "hey" was added to his name.

We can also understand the connection between the Channukah candles and the Mezuzah. Lighting the Channukah candles outside represents going out to bring the light of Torah to others. However, there is a concern that the person going out might become affected negatively by the very people he is trying to bring closer. This is where the Mezuzuah comes in to play.

The Mezuzah serves as a protection. In fact, Hashem's Shechina (Divine Presence) rests by the Mezuzah (Menachos, chap. 3, "Hakometz Rabba", pg. 33b, Rebbi Chaninah). The Shechina is there to protect those that go out to do kiruv (outreach). This is especially true if we stay in contact with a tzaddik asking advice with respect to what is accepted in the name of kiruv and what is not.

Practically speaking, after lighting the Channukah candles, let us spend a minute or two gazing into its light. Let us be reminded that these candles represent the light of Torah. Think about them being lit outside in order to reach those who are out of the loop. Remember that they are lit when its dark in order to reach those living in perpetual darkness.

Then, let's sit around the table and ask ourselves and our family members (maybe over some sufganiyot and coffee), "What are we going to do about it?" Let's brainstorm and ask if there is at least one person we know who we can have a positive effect on by bringing him a little closer to Hashem and His Torah. This person could be a family member, a friend, a neighbor, an acquaintance, or a co-worker.

Let's gather ideas about how to launch this campaign. Then, let's implement them. This would truly be living up to "Channukah's" expectation in the greatest of ways.

So, may we who walk in the footsteps of Yehosef Hatzaddik, be blessed to absorb the light of Channkah and carry it to those "ne-arim" (children) who have drifted to far away and dark places, thus serving as a beacon of light which will be "mechanech" them by leading them to take at least one step on the path back to God and His Torah, which will be the greatest form of tzedakah that fulfills the purpose of creation.