What’s the secret to finding happiness? How do we merit the free gifts from Hashem’s treasure trove of gifts?

On Tuesday evening, November 30, Chazaq, Emet Outreach, and Congregation Od Yosef hosted a night of gratitude for women. What a beautiful, holy event, filled with so much joy! Congregation Od Yosef filled to capacity with community women of all ages coming together to learn Torah and to celebrate the gift of Chanukah.

First, Rabbi Shalom Yona Weiss, well-known speaker, shared that Chanukah is the inyan of hod. Yehuda HaMaccabee and Yehudis both have names with the Hebrew root hod, which means thanks. Rabbi Weiss shared that the reason we don’t have more gratitude is that we are missing hakaras ha’tov, recognizing the good. ”We need to stop and recognize the good in our lives.” He added that there are so many brachos in our lives and the way to bring blessings into our lives is by recognizing them. He noted that we’ve all had some difficulties or challenges in our lives. “Everything that happens in this world, either good or bad, is a test from Hashem.”

Rabbi Weiss shared a teaching from Rav Dessler. Rav Dessler showed a large piece of white paper to his students. In the corner of the paper there was a small black dot. He asked them what they saw, and they all saw the small black dot. This is the problem. We focus on the bad instead of all the good. Rabbi Weiss shared that we get used to negativity, especially with COVID. “If we focus on negativity, we don’t recognize the brachos in our lives, and if we don’t recognize them, we won’t experience those brachos.” He taught that we become used to things. We discuss tragedies, COVID, politics. This gets overwhelming. We get caught up in the marketplace and we don’t notice the brachos.

The Jews found one flask of oil. The Syrian-Greeks were extremely thorough. How could they miss this one flask? It must be that they didn’t, and they made all the oil tamei. Rabbi Weiss explained that the Jews found the pure oil because they searched for it. If you look for what isn’t there, it will bring brachah. Chanukah is about looking for brachah when we see only darkness. “If you look, you will find.” He pointed out that life is full of opportunities to dig and find our own neshamah.

At this event, every participant was given a gratitude journal. Rabbi Weiss shared that his rebbe kept a journal where he would note a hashgachah pratis incident that happened each day. When things were not going well, he looked in his own book for encouragement.

We have to think about what we have, and not let the darkness of the Y’vanim take over our lives. We have to know not to become accustomed to all the blessings in our lives. We have to stop and light a candle. We need to find the shemen.

He concluded with a powerful story, and he shared some of the lyrics from a song and here is an excerpt that can give all of us encouragement and chizuk: “…I promise I will never let go of your hand. I’ll always be with you. Love Your Father in Heaven…”

Following this, Rebbetzin Amit Yaghoubi, well-known speaker, shared that when you look and see what others are missing and you try to help them, then you bring brachah into your life. She spoke about the debate between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai of whether to keep adding a candle each night of Chanukah or to start with eight and keep subtracting. She explained two important concepts in Judaism. First, we need to distance ourselves from bad. Second, we need to engage in what is good. According to Beis Shamai, the first night we would burn out all the negatives by lighting all eight candles. Then each night there would be less and less negativity. Beis Hillel says that if we focus on what is wrong and try to remove it piece by piece, we may never reach the goal to get to that which is good. So Beis Hillel says that on the first night I will notice a little positivity, and each night this will increase until, by the eighth night, I will see so much blessing in my life.

She taught that the word Chanukah comes from the Hebrew root of chinam which means free. Hashem gifts us from his treasury of free gifts. He says to us, “Take my free gifts all day long for eight days.”

Rebbetzin Yaghoubi taught that every time we pass the menorah, we should say a prayer. “Prayers on Chanukah come from the place of free gifts. We tap into that place of free gifts when we recognize all that is good.” She added that the miracle of Chanukah is being able to say thank you, especially in a situation that doesn’t warrant it.

The word Kislev comes from kisui, meaning covering, and lamed-vav, which stands for 36. We light 36 candles on Chanukah. The first thing Hashem created in the world was light. That light lasted until the end of the first Shabbos of Creation. Adam and Chavah had this special light of clarity as a free gift. When they were exiled from the Garden, Hashem hid that light, the or ganuz. We can find that hidden light in the 36 candles. That candle is the light of clarity. We ask Hashem to give us clarity to know our purpose in this world and how to achieve it. She noted that there are 36 hidden tzadikim in the world. Chanukah is about asking myself, what am I going to light inside of me? What gifts do I have to share with the world? We must remember that there is nothing that is too much for Hashem to do or to give to us from His free gifts.

Following this stirring speech, the rebbetzin led everyone in the room in reciting Nishmas with lots and lots of feeling. It was truly a moving experience to do this together as a group, and everyone felt Hashem’s presence right there in the shul at that moment. She concluded with a beautiful brachah to the audience, and which is extended to the readers of this article: “May Hashem answer our t’filos for good and may we all see nisim in our lives for klal Yisrael, and for the entire world!”

Amazingly, following this there was still more inspiration as Shaindel Antelis, a talented singer and songwriter, performed her beautiful songs. Everyone was swaying and clapping and singing or humming along. She shared well-known songs like HaKol BaShamayim and “You’re One in a Million” as well as her own original songs. She noted the special holy power in the room that night. The lyrics of one of her original songs stated, “Life is a gift. Life is a treasure. Thank you for everything.” These words clearly stated the message of the evening’s program.

The community thanks Emet Outreach, Chazaq, and Congregation Od Yosef for this magnificent moving program. We wish everyone a beautiful Chanukah filled with light and blessings to carry into the rest of the year!

 By Susie Garber