Weekly Dvar Torah: Hayom Yom at Eighty

We have just celebrated Yud Tes Kislev, and we are getting ready to celebrate the lights of Chanukah.

The Rebbe mentioned numerous times how the month of Kislev is a Chassidisher month, full of Chassidishe Yomim Tovim, starting with Rosh Chodesh and ending with Chanukah.

Why is Chanukah enumerated as one of the Chassidishe holidays of the month of Kislev, when Chanukah happened thousands of years before Chassidus was even born?

In the Hayom Yom of 2 Tevet, seventh candle of Chanukah, the Rebbe writes:

“The campaign of the Greeks was intended “to make [the Jews] forget ‘Your’ Torah and have them violate the decrees of ‘Your’ will” …. Their entire war was directed against G dliness. They would have allowed the Jews to study Torah and observe Mitzvos …. so long as they did not mention that the Torah was G d’s and that the Mitzvos were “the decrees of His will.”

This idea is not one of the Greeks only, there have always been those who engross themselves in Torah, but they enjoy the intellectual stimulation alone.

The same applies to Mitzvos. Jews have an amazing history and culture. They have a rich past to draw from, they have so many events to commemorate which can stand on their own, why throw G-d into the mix?

Chanukah’s focus is on celebrating the light that came from a small jug of oil. The holiday does not focus on the victory of the war, but on the miracle of the oil.

This can only be appreciated when Chanukah follows a month of Chassidishe holidays. Once you understand that everything is all about G-dliness, then you are able to appreciate the miracle of the oil.

Tiny in size, it illuminated for 8 days and ever since, the Greeks tried to smother the G-dly flame, but the G-dly flame would not be extinguished.

Chassidus explains how oil has the quality that it never mixes with other liquids. It always rises to the top of any other liquid, while at the same time it penetrates everything it comes in contact with.

This is not just what Chassidus explains about Chanukah, but this is actually what Chassidus is all about. Chassidus is like that oil which rises while it penetrates, it encompasses and brings flavor to any deep intellectual Torah discussion while it gives emotional support and validates the simple Jewish soul.

That is why in communist Russia Chassidim were never squelched, and in the free world they never assimilated. And ultimately, they ignited millions of souls and illuminated the entire world with G-dliness.

The one who really brought it to the surface, is the Rebbe. Starting with his first publication, the Hayom Yom, 80 years ago.

In 1940 the Frierdiker Rebbe asked for a book of “daily readings for Chabad Chassidim, that would include Chabad customs, selected teachings, and very short narratives.” He asked, that the author this book should be “a person of deep-seated spiritual integrity, who is fundamentally methodical, and whose mind is broad and profound.”

Almost 3 years later the Rebbe found such a qualified person in his son-in-law, our Rebbe, and when it was finally completed the Rebbe wrote of the Hayom Yom: ““Small in format…, but studded with pearls and diamonds of choicest quality…. Every day has something to say. This is a true HaYom Yom (‘today is the day’): each of its days is indeed a day.”

The wealth in this book is indescribable, it covers the simplest day to day customs to the deepest and loftiest concepts in understanding G-dliness, from the deepest complicated rulings in Halacha to simple historical notes in the Chassidic calendar, which the booklet is titled to be, a calendar.

This all in a tiny unassuming inconspicuous booklet. And like the penetrating oil that always rises to the top.

80 years after its publication we are still trying to unravel the mysteries of every short sentence that was prepared for every day, and what can we learn in it, and from it.

From, the secret meaning of Chanukah to the love of G-d to every Jew; from how to conduct yourself when bentching after the meal, to a typo correction in Torah Ohr; from the proper version of the Haftorah, to the history of the genius of the Alter Rebbe in his youth.

This is no trivial pursuit, this is the heart and soul of a Chossid. The more we learn it the more we realize how much more there is to learn. Most importantly we have the tools with which to live each and every day, we can become illuminated with this burning oil of Torah and Chassidus.

Join “Project Hayom Yom”, you will discover how everyday will really be a day.

Have a ‘day’ of a Shabbos,
Gut Shabbos, Happy Chanukah
Yosef Katzman