By Rabbi Label Lam
It was the last day of Chanukah on a Sunday. We got the call early in the
morning. The house was filled with excitement. A young lady we knew very
well, who is now a mother of a wonderful Jewish family, was studying for
conversion at that time and she had finally gotten the “go ahead”. When she
called us that morning she enthusiastically shared with us her beautiful new
Jewish name, and invited us to a small Chanukah party. My wife and I made
the long trek out to Long Island. She was brimming with joy surrounded by
supportive families and friends. The table was filled with brunch goodies
and we all sat down to eat -sing and celebrate.
At one moment one of the lead Rabbis there nudged me gently and said," Nu
Reb Label, say something!" I have to admit I was woefully unprepared for the
sudden invitation. I asked him if we can sing another song and we did.
During the musical interlude a question occurred to me that I am not sure if
I heard from a reliable source or if I had thought of it myself. I apologize
for not remembering. This is what I shared!
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 are extinguished be called" Zos Chanukah"!? Usually
the word Zos or Zeh – “this” is reserved for times when there’s something to
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 was
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? So the declaration should be
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 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 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?!"
After eight days of lighting the Chanukah candles, eight full days of
expressing dedication- honoring the education process, we might wonder,"
what have the candles ignited in us?!" When all the lights are out and there
is no one there to watch, when all the teacher-types have retreated, then
what remains, that's Chanukah!
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.