Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
Rabbenu Nachman of Breslev teaches us that both Shabbat and Chanuka are aspects of the World to Come. Since the main occupation of the souls in the spiritual world is to sing songs of thanks to Hashem, when we do the same down here, we elevate ourselves to the level of the World to Come. That’s why our souls feel so good on Chanuka.
A Jew should pray for one thing only and say: “Hashem, I have one request from You: Grant me the privilege of thanking You.” Rebbe Nathan of Breslev teaches that our entire task in this world is to thank Hashem.
Here's what King David said in Psalm 92 about the value of singing praises of thanks to Hashem:
A Psalm, a Song. For the Sabbath day.
It's good to thank you, Hashem, and to sing praises to Your exalted name;
To tell of Your lovingkindness in the morning, and of Your faithfulness in the nights!
Our sages teach us that morning is when everything is going right. Nights are the darkness of tough times – even then, we should be thanking Hashem.
Kind David – who was tested with every trouble imaginable - testifies that singing Hashem's praise and thanking Him can rescue a person from any trouble. In fact, the Gemara teaches us two important lessons about thanks:
First, a person is supposed to make a special sacrifice, an offering of thanks, every time Hashem saves him from peril, known a a korban toda.
Second, the offering of thanks is so important, so lofty, that in the future, after the rebuilding of the Temple, all the various sacrifices will be cancelled, and the only sacrifice that will remain is the Korban Toda.
Even though Chanuka is Jewish Thansgiving, we should really be eating the Chanuka treats all year long because every day in a Jew’s life is Thanksgiving. True, we don't have sacrifices at this time, but we certainly have songs of thanks, that are just as powerful as a sacrifice. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches that thanking Hashem is the delight of the world to come; so , when you thank Hashem, you can uplift yourself from the tension and troubles of this world, and taste heaven on earth.
So maybe you want to ask, "How can I thank Hashem when my life is so full of difficulties? Let's take a good look at this question, and see how we can find our way out of any darkness:
All Jews have problems!You’re no exception. Your difficult challenges in life are all for the best, to make you ask Hashem to give you the power of prayer, and to give you the faith and the awareness that only He can help you. Prayer must be tenacious, so don't give up until you're answered! The stronger our faith, the more we pray and the better we're answered.
Rebbe Hanina interprets Psalm 94:12, "Happy is the man that Hashem torments, and teaches him Torah." It's worthwhile to suffer in order to learn Torah. Rebbe Hanina says that accepting Hashem's trials and tribulations with love is the prime lesson of Torah.
Look at our forefathers - their trials were excruciating! Sometimes Hashem promised Abraham one thing and then did the opposite. He brought him to Canaan, but instead of blessings, Abraham encountered famine. Yet, as the father of emuna and the Jewish people, he passed many tests. To this day, by passing the test of emuna, one achieves unimaginable rewards.
Hashem gives us our trials and tribulations in order to reward us and our children forever. For that reason, we should thank Him for our tribulations.
Chanuka was a time of almost total hopelessness, with a few loyal Jews facing not only the Greeks, but 95% of their brothers who assimilated and became Hellenists. Yet, this excruciating test of faith brought out the best of our people, including the heroism and dedication of the Maccabees and the resanctification of the Holy Temple. Now, we know that the trials of Chanuka were all for our ultimate benefit, so we freely and lavishly praise Hashem and thank Him on Chanuka. We should do exactly the same even in the midst of a difficult tribulation, for nothing invokes such Divine compassion as thanking Hashem.
The more we strengthen ourselves in emuna, the more we realize the wonderful things Hashem does for us every single second.
I tell myself all day long how it's good to thank Hashem and that singing thanks to Hashem is the most important thing in the entire world. In heaven, they like happy people that are happy with their lot and thanking Hashem. The angels can't stand sad and depressed people.
Do you think for a moment that Hashem doesn't know your difficulties in life? Yet, if you sing His name in thanks, He'll really give you a reason to sing! So get started – Happy Chanuka!