A Freilichen Chanuka, A Frelichen Shabbos mevorchim, A Freilichen Chodesh, and moisif vehoilech in every area!!!
ערב ש”ק פר’ מקץ, שבת חנוכה, שנת “שבעת” לפ”ק
Dear Alumni Sheyichyu!
A Freilichen Chanuka!!!
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The following story, with R’ Mendel Vechter, that I recently heard at a farbrengen, was subsequently confirmed for me by his son R’ Yosef Leib Vechter:
R’ Mendel Vechter was a very prominent Satmar chosid, and was the son of R’ Lipe Vechter, who was a respected Satmar Rov and one of the leading Rabbonim in Toronto. It came about that R’ Yoel Kahan began learning chassidus with him, and R’ Mendel was very influenced by what he learned. Initially the agreement was that R’ Yoel would only quote from the Alter Rebbe (and not from the Rebbe), and R’ Yoel would have to “smuggle” in explanations from the Rebbe “in disguise”. Gradually, R’ Yoel revealed to him the source of these interpretations, and R’ Mendel Vechter started developing a connection with the Rebbe.
At one point, he started attending the Rebbe’s farbrengens. At that time he was still living in Williamsburg, and was a very influential educator in Satmar, and for him to get “caught” in Lubavitch would be very dangerous, to put it mildly (almost like a bochur being caught in . . .). There was a room upstairs in 770, that was the operations center for WLCC, from where the farbrengens were broadcast around the world. There was a small hole in the wall of that room, from where one could look down at the farbrengen.
It was arranged that Rabbi Vechter would sit in that room and observe the farbrengen from up there as a roieh ve’eino nireh (sounds like the tricks bochurim come up with to avoid being observed when they go to . . .)
One day, when there was a farbrengen scheduled for that evening, R’ Mendel Vechter was visiting with a Dayan in Satmar. Before he left, the Dayan asked him to wait, saying that he, the Dayan, owed R’ Mendel 14 cents (as change for something), and he wanted to repay it. R’ Mendel looked surprised, indicating that 14 cents was insignificant, and didn’t warrant any attention.
But the Dayan disagreed, saying: “Vos meinst du, mi fertzen cent ken men mekadesh zain fertzen nooshim” [What do you mean, with these 14 cents one can be mekadesh 14 women].
That night, at the farbrengen, in the middle of one of the sichos, the Rebbe remarked: “A person may find 14 cents, and think that they are of no importance. But he is wrong. With those 14 cents one can give 14 times tzedakah, and that is 14 connections with Atzmus Ein Sof Boruch Hu”!!
On Chanukah we celebrate the spiritual victory of Torah and mitzvos over the Greek ideology that preached that the physical is paramount. The fact that the victory was primarily spiritual, that the whole conflict was at its roots a spiritual one, has its practical implications: It is known what the Levush says, and is quoted by many poskim, that on Chanukah we don’t celebrate with eating and drinking (as we do on Purim) because, unlike Purim which was a physical salvation, on Chanukah it was our neshomos that were threatened, and that benefitted primarily from the miracles.
Thus we celebrate Chanukah mainly by the additional teffilos, by saying Hallel, and by lighting the menorah. And, of course, by playing dreidel, by eating jelly donuts (until we’re about to burst).
And, by giving (and receiving) Chanuka gelt.
Which, when you think about it, seems rather strange. Remember, this is meant to be a spiritual holiday. And nothing, seemingly, is further from spirituality than money. Even if we do call it “Chanukah gelt”. Money is supposed to be the root of all evil, gelt is blotteh, and it is symbolic of everything that is negative in the world. This is not merely folklore, in Chazal we find that the title “Bnan shel kedoshim” – basically a holy person – was bestowed on R’ Menachem ben Simai specifically because he refrained from even looking at money!
[In the beginning of the nesius of the Tzemach Tzedek, he once gave the non-Jewish wagon driver a few coins, telling him to go to the tavern to buy himself a drink, and to return with the change. The Tzemach Tzedek specified how much change he was to return with.
The wagon driver complained, saying that the previous Rebbe (the Mitteler Rebbe) never paid any attention to the amount of money or took any notice of it].
So, what’s up with the Chanukah gelt? At least on Purim, when we celebrate by exchanging gifts of food, there are explanations that rationalize it, we can understand that it is an exercise in ahavas Yisroel and unity etc. But since when is there a form of avodas Hashem by . . distributing money? And on which Yom Tov does this take place? On the one that’s exclusively focused on spirituality!
Perhaps the above story can shed some light on this (that’s right, the light of the menorah can illuminate even the money). Money is something that is generally viewed as the antithesis of holiness and spirituality. But it is not inherently evil. On the contrary, money is another tool that connects us with Atzmus, with the Eibishter Himself. And the reason for this is because in real truth, in pnimiyus, the money itself is also only another part of the manifestation of G-dliness in the world.
Generally, we don’t perceive that aspect of money. We see the ills and evils that are associated with money and its pursuit.
But on Chanukah there are different kochos than the rest of the year, and even than the rest of the yomim tovim. On Chanukah we place our menorah outside, because we are empowered to illuminate the darkness. We are not merely seeking to increase light that will inevitably dispel the darkness. Rather, on Chanukah our objective is to illuminate the darkness itself, to reveal the true essence of the darkness, how in essence, deep down, it’s not darkness but light.
It’s not money, that’s leads to greed and strife and sin. It is a tool for the most powerful connection with Atzmus Ein Sof Boruch Hu!
So it’s only natural that on Chanukah, we give out Chanuka gelt!. On Chanukah, when we have the ability to – and we do – illuminate the darkness itself, to transform the darkness itself into light, at this time it’s not “blotteh gelt” or “yetzer hora gelt” but it’s “Chanukah gelt”. Because the light of Chanukah reveals the true nature and definition of this gelt!
Usually, we are able to see the purity, the holiness and G-dliness, only in things that are naturally bright. But Chanuka gives us the strength and the ability to see beyond the external coverings. The world itself, and everything that symbolizes it is in truth merely another vehicle to bring about the revealed presence of Atzmus down here.
This is why Chanuka has such a connection with Moshiach (when the number 8 will be so prevalent). Because, in truth, Moshiach is nothing new, it is merely recognizing the true essence of the world. It is the realization that really all along “Hashem echad ushmo echad”. And, when that is visible even in the world, then Hashem is “Melech al kol ho’oretz”.
And the preparation for this is by illuminating the chutz itself, the darkness itself and the world itself. By revealing that even something so mundane as gelt is part of His ultimate plan and scheme, that it is part of Chanuka. It is part of the Chanukas hamishkan (for which purpose gold was created in the first place, as the midrash relates), it is part of Chanukas Beis haMikdash, including the Mikdash hashlishi. And, it is part of our chinuch, our education, practice and preparation for this very-soon-to-be new era.
So get out your wallets, and give Chanuka gelt to your children and/or your talmidim and your mushpa’im. (And, yes, of course, you can give to your Yeshiva and melamdim as well. And – for the advertisement – , you can give to Yeshivas Lubavitch Toronto (your alma mater) – it is always very welcome!)
And allow your perspective of gelt, of velt, to be transformed!
L’chaim! Let us all fulfill the Rebbe’s enthusiastic hora’ah every Chanuka to give Chanuka gelt to those to whom we should be giving, and may the Eibishter in turn fulfill the hora’ah – magid dvorov leYaakov – and give his beloved children Chanuka gelt, both in the literal sense – lots and lots of money (according to His hasagos), and especially the long-awaited Chanuka gelt for which we’re waiting and begging for, – the complete and immediate revelation of Moshiach Tzidkeinu TUMYM!!!
Rabbi Akiva Wagner
לזכות ר’ שלום מרדכי הלוי בן רבקה, לגאולה וישועה קרובה ושלימה, תומ”י ממש בטוהנוהנ”ג!
Click here to give Chanukah gelt to your Yeshivah