into the darkness

Most people have a natural fear of darkness.

This grows to encompass any and all unknowns, that's what darkness inherently is. 

Hannukah is about illuminating the darkness. Yavan, the Greek empire, was called "darkness" by Chazal. Their persecution was an attempt to extinguish the light of Torah in the world and replace it with their own empty or dark culture.

But, Matityahu and his children plunged into the darkness clinging to the light of Torah, and as we are taught in Hassidut, a small amount of light illuminates a far greater darkness.

The novelty of this idea, the idea of Hannukah where rather than fearing the darkness we confront it head on, even seek it out, was adopted as the banner of Hassidut. This is why Hassidim (especially Chabad) refer to this time of year as the Rosh HaShanah of Hassidut. The Chabad Hassidim celebrated with a great feast the same day their Rebbe was taken into Russian custody. What did they celebrate? His eventual release, his certain conquest over the darkness. On the 19th of Kislev they celebrated an even greater celebration when the Rebbe was released.

So too, in Hassidut, we take great joy in the approach of Hannukah, even in the depth of the darkness that always comes before it. But this joy cannot even be compared to the celebration of the arrival of Hannukah.

To learn a little bit more about darkness and light, we can look at the daily cycle. As the sun passes noon and begins to fall, we already know that night is imminent, it's coming no matter what. When night falls it gets darker and darker until in the depths of the darkness, midnight, we know even if we cannot see it that the night has already begun its approach to morning. At the very moment of midnight, there is a Jewish custom to awaken and mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple.  The end of the text which is read at Tikkun Hatzot, as the custom is called, takes heart at the promised return of the Temple in the end of days.

Hannukah, as we mentioned in the past, (and as discussed in the Bnei Yissachar) represents the same time of Tikkun Hatzot in the yearly cycle. At the darkest point of the year, as the year begins to head in the inevitable direction of summer, yet the light of summer is still invisible, at that very time, we light the Hannukah candles in comemoration both of the desecration of the Holy Temple, and our triumph over the forces of darkness which led to the Holy Temple's re-dedication.

Today is the day before Hannukah, where the world is at its darkest. Today we need to rejoice with great and redoubled faith, for just as we know with absolute certainty that tonight the illumination of Hannukah will shine out on the world, so too, we know that HaShem will redeem His people from the darkness of this extended exile.

Hassidut and Hannukah unite together to teach us that in our day and age, a time that parallels the second to last plague of the 10 plagues that befell Egypt, that of Darkness, we need to head feerlessly into the belly of the darkness and therein draw down the light of Torah, illuminating the whole world with utter faith

[It is an interesting aside to note that after the plague of darkness, the Jews approached their Egyptian neighbors to borrow vessels with which to serve HaShem in the desert. The Torah says that the Jews found favor (חן) in the eyes of the Egyptians, the very same letters that are at the root of the word חנוכה - Hannukah.]


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