I wanted to share a short teaching about the power of Chanukah which I connected to this week. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z”l teaches in his book “Lev HaShamayim” on Chanukah (pages 32-34) that this special holiday is about rectifying and purifying our hearts again. All of the Chassidic Rebbes teach that the name of this month, Kislev, can also be interpreted as כיס-לב, meaning that our hearts need to be a vessel (כיס is a pocket and לב is the heart). What does our heart need to be a vessel for? For the great light which is beyond words. This means that on the deepest level, where do I light the Chanukah candles? Inside my heart.
This might be hard to hear, but Rebbe Nachman says that every sin which we do causes us to hate somebody else. Why? Because every sin ruins the holiness of our hearts, and everything depends on the heart. Not only does it cause us to feel hatred for another person, G-d forbid, it also causes us to hate ourselves. Every sin causes a person to distance themselves from their own soul and their own heart.
Hashem forgives our sins on Yom Kippur, however the heart itself, when does Hashem rectify it? When does he remove all of the evil and hatred from the heart? When do we see again the beauty and light and holiness of another person? On Chanukah. Chanukah is the time of Aharon, the High Priest. His expertise was to bring peace between people. How do we make peace between people? By removing the hatred from people’s hearts. Our special light also begins to shine again on Chanukah, we can again look in the mirror and see our own great light.
Rebbe Nachman spoke a lot about the heart. He wanted his students and followers to be called specifically Breslov Chasidim. Breslov sounds similar to the Hebrew words לב בשר, lev basar- a heart of flesh, literally. One of the goals of his teachings I think you can say is to have a feeling heart, a heart filled with knowledge and faith. His teachings are filled with incredible knowledge and advice, which he wanted us to bring into our hearts through prayer and by fulfilling his advice. Rebbe Nachman said in one of his conversations that main aspect of true knowledge of Hashem and the Torah is when knowledge is connected with our hearts. Even in our hearts we need to know Hashem and have awe of Him. Our heart can also feel and experience the truth of Hashem’s existence and our faith in Him. (Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom, teaching 217)
As I light the Chanukah candles each night and look at their beautiful light in the dark winter night, I pray as much as I can. I say different prayers that I’ve written for myself over the years. However, I realize now after learning this teaching by Reb Shlomo that the deepest thing I’m really praying for is to have a pure heart again, to be kind and loving and open to my family and to all those I meet. King David says in his prayers, “Create a pure heart for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” (Psalms, Chapter 51, Verse 12) A pure heart, this is what I was praying for by the candles tonight on this night of Chanukah after reading this teaching. I know that this is how Hashem created me and how I was as a small child. Many, many times I feel so far from a pure, open heart. However, Chanukah has the power to shine this special light again, the healing light of faith and love in our hearts. The light of feeling and seeing Hashem’s love in our lives all throughout the year. Chanukah reminds us how deeply we want to feel this again.
(The image is courteous of Chabad.org)