Twenty-two years after selling their brotherיוסף as a slave, the brothers eventually didתשובה and atoned for their egregious sin. This shows us that as long as we are alive, it is never too late to be remorseful and repent for ourעברות . Perhaps surprisingly, this theme relates directly toחנוכה , which almost always coincides withפרשת מקץ .
Around 90 days ago, all of us stood with awe and trepidation, listening to the sounds of theשופר . We were all cognizant at that time that the judgment for the New Year was taking place. Approximately 80 days ago, we were all fasting, davening, repenting, and crying on the holy day ofיום כיפור . We left Yom Kippur vowing to maintain our teshuvah and our guarantees to change. “This year will be different,” we told ourselves. Roughly 75 days ago, we all sat in ourסוכות , rejoicing in the magnificence of Hashem’s Shechinah that was present there. We felt Hashem’s intense love as we waved our אסרוגים & לולבים. We rejoiced in the זמן שמחתנו and danced and sang until we couldn’t anymore, at the thrilling Simchas Torah Hakafos.
It all seems quite a long time ago. Distant memories. So much has transpired since then. We ponder and contemplate: Do the Yamim Noraim still matter? Can they still make a difference to us now? How can we access the growth and awakening we experienced during the Days of Awe?
This is the intention and objective of Chanukah. The root of the wordחנוכה is ,חנוך meaning dedication & initiation (see Rashi to Bereishis 15:14). Its mission is to energize the winter with powerfulרוחניות . The Sfas Emes states that we light 36 candles on Chanukah because Chanukah’s spiritual light lasts for 36 days, fromכ"ה Kislev through the month of טבת. This gives the winter a “jumpstart” that will hopefully help us all experience it without any spiritual casualties. How does Chanukah accomplish this?
There is a not-so-widely known מנהג brought from Likkutei Maharil, among others (see Taamei HaMinhagim, p. 363), that the judgment ofרוש השנה actually lasts even until Chanukah. Hashem’s blessings, abundant influence, and light for the coming year truly begin at Chanukah. This is why we light candles specifically at Chanukah, to show that the spiritual light for the entire year is now being released. So, even if for some reason we did not take advantage of the gift of the Yamim Noraim, even if we did not doתשובה properly back in אלול andתשרי , all is not lost. We are given an opportunity to repent on Chanukah. We can and we must utilize the precious gift of Chanukah to rectify and remedy our misdeeds andעבירות and to evaluate whether we have been maintaining the resolutions we made back in Elul.
Chanukah is designated for spiritual growth. The Shelah writes: “The holy days of Chanukah are most appropriate for consistent and concentrated Torah study, more than other days…but as a result of our many חטאים, most people actually learn lessתורה on Chanukah.” The Kedushas Levi writes: “It is worthy for every person who calls himself a Jew to set his mind to concentrate on Torah study onחנוכה . The days of Chanukah are designed for this because on these days the light of Hashem shines on us.”
May we all be zoche to enjoy the precious, enjoyable moments and experiences we have with our families during Chanukah, as well as be inspired by the light of the menorah whereby we do not waste the opportunity for spiritual growth that the magnificent days of Chanukah offer us.