On Tuesday night, December 20, community women flocked to Congregation Od Yosef Chai for the annual night of gratitude celebration. This year, the event was in memory of Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein z”l. The first 50 attendees received a free copy of the new book, It’s All About Change: Stories and Insights from Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein zt”l.

Robbie Aboff, Events Coordinator for Chazaq, welcomed everyone and shared that the event was hosted by Chazaq, Ohr Naava, and Od Yosef Chai. He shared that the idea for this program came from the wife of Rabbi Shalom Yona Weis. Five years ago, she said that we were getting together only for T’hilim for difficult situations, and we should get together for a night of gratitude.

Next, Rubin Kolyakov of TorahAnytime.com, spoke about Rabbi Wallerstein. He lamented that we lost Rabbi Wallerstein eight months ago. TorahAnytime recorded his lectures for the past 16 years. He shared that anyone interested in sponsoring the Rabbi Wallerstein book should go to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Following this, Rabbi Shalom Yona Weis, inspirational speaker, first shared how much we miss Rabbi Wallerstein. He related his gratitude to Rabbi Wallerstein, who profoundly influenced him and his family. He shared that he had the z’chus to work with Rabbi Wallerstein’s organizations.

He then spoke about the idea of being thankful for difficult times. The Torah portions during Chanukah are about dark times. He noted that the brightness of the Chanukah candle is on the top. Between the wick and the source of fuel there is a dark space. The fire only goes above that dark empty space. The Gemara says that the Jews searched and didn’t find any pure oil except for one small container of pure oil. Klal Yisrael is built to face challenges.

The deeper and darker the challenge, the stronger and brighter energy we are given to overcome that challenge. Hashem built the world to access energy. There has to be an opposing force. You can’t access the inner power – the inner light – without an opposing force.

He explained that the main idea of Chanukah is a gift of a shovel. You can carry the weight of the shovel on your back and complain about it or you can use the shovel to dig. All precious elements like gold, oil, and diamonds require deep digging. Everything in the physical world is a manifestation of the spiritual world. Hashem is telling us that there are precious gems that we need to reach. “The darker our life, the deeper we need to dig.”

He taught that Chanukah is the time to embrace our challenges. We say that there is nothing we can do and we turn to Hashem in a real way. He noted that the word “tov” first appears in the Chumash when G-d created the light. The word has four crowns around it. The essence of “good” is the 36 candles of Chanukah that we light. Ultimate good is closeness to Hashem.

In the davening during Chanukah, we thank Hashem for the battles. Yaakov wanted peace, but peace in this world doesn’t make you a tzadik. It’s the shovels Hashem gave us, and it’s recognizing that there is good in that shovel that helps us to grow. Hashem knows what we need and what is hidden inside of us.

Hashem is telling our generation that there is light deep inside, and He is waiting to connect to us in a deeper way.

He shared that “the light is only recognized because of the darkness.”

Rebbetzin Amit Yaghoubi, well-known speaker, spoke next. She shared that everyone is a small light, and all together we are a strong powerful light. “The Chachamim (Sages) tell us that it is not just the light of Chanukah, but that the power of Chanukah is l’hodos and l’hallel, to give thanks and to praise.” We need to take the message of Chanukah throughout the year. The best Chanukah gift is to say thank you all year. The real gift is to learn to say thank you. “What Jews can accomplish with a thank you is infinitely greater than even with a menorah.”

She shared that what blocks us from being able to say thank you is yiush, despair. This is our biggest enemy. Yavan (Greece) wanted to drag us into a vortex of sadness and keep us in blackness.

Hashem has never forsaken us. “I believe in Your chesed.” Bitachon means: “Hashem, I know everything you do is chesed.”

She taught that the greatest hishtadlus that a Jew can do is to say thank you to Hashem, to one’s family, and to people at work. When you say thank you, you feel full. She shared inspiring stories with this message.

Dr. Jonathan Donath, founder of dailygiving.org, pitched the idea of how much one dollar a day can do for so many worthy tz’dakah organizations. He encouraged everyone to sign up.

The evening concluded with the beautiful singing of Shaindel Antelis, well-known Jewish singer.

Attendees left inspired, filled with gratitude, and humming the beautiful melodies of the evening.

By Susie Garber