As Chanukah is already in our rear view mirrors and we are facing the cold, snowy winter, let me share with you a thought to take away from Chanukah. The late Boyaner Rebbe, zt”l, zy”a, makes an interesting observation. He explains that the Gemara in Shabbos informs us that Chanukah was instituted especially as days of hoda’ah, of thanks. On the simple level this means that Chanukah is the Jewish Thanksgiving. However, he elaborates further that the word hoda’ah is especially related to thanking Hashem for that which we have extra, more than what is expected.
This we learn from Leah who, when she had her fourth child, called him Yehuda, explaining, “Hapa’am odeh es Hashem – This time I will thank Hashem.” As Rashi explains, Leah knew that there were four wives and that there would be twelve shevatim. Divided equally, each wife would have three shevatim. When she had her fourth child, she thanked Hashem with hoda’ah for giving her more that her allotment.
The Boyaner Rebbe explains that Chanukah is all about getting extra. We had enough oil to light one night but Hashem gave us extra to light for eight nights until we could once again manufacture pure kosher oil. So too, the tiny and untrained family of Yehuda Macabee was no match for the Olympic might and trained gladiators of the Syrian-Greeks, but Hashem gave us extra and allowed us to overwhelm them. This is why Chanukah is a time of hoda’ah, of giving thanks for what we have extra.
In the first of the Hallelukahs in Pesukei D’zimrah, we echo this concept from the Tehillim of Dovid HaMelech when we say, “Ahalelah Hashem bchai’ai; Azomrah Leilokai b’odi.” Literally, this means, “I praise Hashem with my life; I sing to Hashem while I exist.” But the work b’odi can also be rendered ‘with my extra’ and so this can be read to mean “I praise Hashem with my life and I sing to Him for what I have extra.” This is the sentiment of hoda’ah.
As we leave Chanukah, we should reflect upon how much we have extra. We are Jews and thus we have a promised portion in the Afterlife, as it says “Kol Yisrael yeish lahem cheilek l’olam haba – All Yisrael has a portion in the Afterlife.” We also have the exclusive gift of Shabbos that gives one a taste mei’ein olam haba, a taste akin of the Afterlife. We were also bequeathed the great gift of Torah about which we are taught, “Ein simcha k’simchas haTorah – There is no joy like the joy of Torah.” Unlike the goyim that have seven mitzvos, we have 613. These too are avenues to great happiness as the posuk testifies, “Pikudei Hashem yisharim; m’samchei lev – The commandments of Hashem are upright; they gladden the heart.”
Until now, we’ve discussed the extras on a national level. But we should also think about the extras we have on a personal level. If you have a livelihood, reflect upon how many people are out of work. If you’re married, think about how many are single. If you have children, think about those who are childless. If you are healthy, think about how many people are ill. If your life is tranquil, think about how many people are troubled. And the list goes on and on.
We can think about our extras when we say “Modim anachnu Lach” three times daily or when we open our eyes in the morning and start our day with a fervent “Modeh ani Lifanecha”. The Chovos Halevovos recommends, “Devorim sherotzeh lahasmid bah, al tiftach bah – Things that you want to continue, do not take them for granted.” Rather, thank Hashem continuously for all of the extras that you have.
In that merit may Hashem continue to bless us with long life, good health and everything wonderful.