April 23, 2024
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Chanukah: An Opportune Time for Blessings

Recently, I attended a Shabbos tish of the Sanz-Zhviller Rebbe held in Passaic, hosted by the Passaic Clifton Community Kollel. The divrei Torah and zemiros were inspiring. A few of my talmidim were there, so I asked them if they wanted a bracha from the Rebbe. They were very excited about the proposition. “It’s important to know for what you want a bracha,” I advised them. “Brachos are very powerful. Before you approach the Rebbe, think carefully about what you need, and ask for something specific and meaningful in your life.”

Everybody wants brachos. People run to rebbes and roshei yeshiva, daven at kivrei tzaddikim, and look for segulos for brachos. Who wouldn’t want them? The good news is that Chanukah is an auspicious time to receive tremendous brachos from Hashem. Rav Avraham Schorr says this is evident from the Torah reading of Chanukah found in Parshas Naso, the weekly portion containing the korbanos brought by the nesiim, princes, for chanukas haMishkan, the inauguration of the Mishkan. Some people have the custom to start reading the parsha from the verses of Bircas Kohanim.

The verses of Bircas Kohanim open with the word “koh,” which is spelled with the Hebrew letters kaf-hei, whose numerical value is 25. This alludes to the holiday of Chanukah which starts on the 25th day of Kislev.

The Baal HaTurim points out that the word “bracha” is listed 25 times in the Torah. This number is another allusion to Chanukah which starts on the 25th day of Kislev. The word “shalom,” so prominent in the blessings of the kohanim, is also listed 25 times in the Torah.

The Sfas Emes notes that Bircas Kohanim is comprised of six blessings: “y’varechecha, may Hashem bless you; v’yishmerecha, may Hashem watch over you; ya’eir, may Hashem show a shining countenance to you; vichuneka, may Hashem grant you grace; yisa, may Hashem turn His countenance towards you; and v’yaseim lecha shalom, may Hashem establish peace for you.” The first pasuk of Shema is also composed of six words, as is the pasuk of Baruch Shem…, which is recited immediately after the pasuk of Shema.

The Zohar says that the six words of the pasuk of Shema and the six words of Baruch Shem correspond to the six wings of angels described by Yeshaya HaNavi. Two wings cover their heads, two cover their bodies and two cover their feet. Each wing expresses another element of Hashem.

The Gemara questions the number of wings, as Yechezkel HaNavi describes a vision of angels with only four wings. The Gemara explains that angels really have six wings, but after the destruction of the first Beis HaMikdash, two of their wings were clipped.

Similarly, the two middle blessings of Bircas Kohanim are “ya’eir” and “vichuneka.” These two blessings call for illumination and chein, favor, from Hashem. When the Beis HaMikdash was in operation, there was ha’aras panim, a shining countenance, of Hashem towards Klal Yisrael. With the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, there was hastaras panim, the hiding of Hashem’s presence.

However, Chanukah restores these two blessings. Chanukah is the time of the bracha of ya’eir, illumination. The menorah we light on Chanukah represents the light that Hashem shines on us. The first two letters of the word Chanukah spell chein, as Hashem takes a special interest in Klal Yisrael during Chanukah. Further, Chanukah is a time of ohr, light; ha’aras panim brings back the bracha of Hashem shining His countenance on us even in the darkness of exile.

Indeed, Chanukah is a time of bracha, specifically ha’aras panim, when Hashem reveals Himself and His involvement with us. And it’s a time when we have chein, grace, in Hashem’s eyes and we can ask for sizable miraculous requests!

A particularly opportune time to daven to Hashem for bracha is the time when we light the menorah. The Torah reading of Chanukah begins with Bircas Kohanim and ends on the last day of Chanukah with the mitzvah of lighting the menorah in the Mishkan. In this way, the two mitzvos are clearly linked.

When asking Hashem for a bracha, we should think specifically of an area in our lives that needs help. Nothing is too small or too large. May Hashem illuminate our areas of darkness and grant our requests with favor.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged but any contributions are always welcome.  Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected].

For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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