Posted on December 15, 2023 (5784) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

Why is this day, the eighth day of Chanukah titled” Zos Chanukah”? Of all the days of Chanukah, that name” Zos Chanukah”, why should the eighth day after all the candles have sunset be called” Zos Chanukah”!? The word Zos or Zeh – “this” is reserved for times when there’s something to point to.

It would make more sense to refer to the first night of Chanukah when the light begins to grow in the window or the eighth night when the Menorah is in full bloom for all to see.

When the Jewish people went through the split sea they declared, “This is my G-d…” Rashi tells us that they all witnessed loftiest of visions… When Moshe was introduced to the Mitzvah of the new month he was told,” this month is for you…” Again, we are informed by Rashi that Moshe was shown a sliver of the moon. In each case the word “Zeh”-“this” means something visible or tangible.

Similarly, when a Torah scroll is lifted in synagogue congregants gather around and point with their finger while reciting, “This is the Torah that Moshe placed before the children of Israel by G-d through the agency of Moshe” Many are careful to position themselves to see the script inside the scroll while indicating with a finger.

Why is this time without visuals called “Zos Chanukah”? The simple answer is that over the course of the eight days of Chanukah we read in the Torah about the inaugural activities of the heads of the tribes which concludes on the eighth day of Chanukah when we say,” this is the inauguration of the altar”. It is followed by Aaron’s invitation to light the menorah of the Tabernacle. It is because of those words, “Zos Chanukas HaMizbeach” “this is the dedication of the altar”- this day is titled based on the first two words,” Zos Chanukas…”. Still there must be something more.

Chanukah is an expression of -Chinuch-education. How do we know when education has taken place? Sure, when we look into the classroom and watch the teachers teaching and the students learning we assume that that’s education. However, that might just be the process of education. How can we measure when education has taken place?

One of my Rebbes used to tell us that the final exam, the symptom that Torah learning has been absorbed into the psyche of the student is when one sees how they behave in the dining room and with each other after the classes are complete. Here too, after the lights are out, after eight full days of lighting the Chanukah candles, after all the scholastic activities are concluded a burning question remains.

Somebody once came to a great Rabbi and boasted with extra pride, “Rabbi, I finished the entire Talmud!” The Rabbi, sensing his haughty attitude answered him sharply, “And what did the Talmud teach you?!” We spend eight days lighting the Chanukah Menorah but what does the Chanukah Menorah light within us!?

We can find no greater example of ZOS CHANUKAH, of someone who remained loyal and dutiful without the watchful eye of a parent or the blessed coercion of community and family, than Yosef HaTzadik. He is the poster child, the perfect example, the portrait of success! How did he do it? How did his father do it? Perhaps we have a giant hint in last week’s Parsha. The same exact word is used seemingly independently, “VaYema’ain”. In one verse Yaakov refuses to be comforted over the loss of Yosef and in another Yosef is refusing the advances of Eishes Potifar. What is the connection? Yaakov never gave up on Yosef. He held out a deep seeded belief that OD YOSEF CHAI, that Yosef is still alive. When a father believes in his son that is the highest form of motivation. When a parent tells a child, “I trust you will do the right thing!”, the child does not want to disappoint his parent.

How was Yosef able to dodge a world of temptation? Rashi tells us that an image of his father appeared to him. Perhaps it was the image his father had of him that appeared to him and that is what he refused to disappoint. In his mind his father was always alive, “OD AVINU CHAI”. With that mindset, Yosef remained a Tzadik while living so far from the watchful eye of his father, and so we are surviving in a long dark and difficult exile. That’s a Chanukah we can point to and be proud of. Here we are, loyal still, after all these years!