Avrohom Leventhal
Avrohom Leventhal

Counting the Little Things

We are taught that Yaakov’s concern about “little vessels” brought about the miracle of Hanukkah.

In Parshat Vayishlach, prior to meeting Eisav, Yaakov Avinu retraces his steps in order to retrieve “pachim ketanim” (little vessels) that he inadvertently left behind. It was at this point that he encountered the guardian angel of Eisav.

How does Yaakov’s frugality connect to the historical and national impact of the 8 days of oil?

The Gemara tells us (חולין צא) that righteous people value everything that HaShem gives them and are therefore careful with their possessions.

It was Yaakov’s efforts to retrieve the “pachim ketanim” that enabled his descendants to merit the miracle of the “pach shemen” (vessel of oil), the basis of Hanukkah.

Other than the word “pach”, what is the connection between appreciating everything that HaShem does/gives and the celebration of Hanukkah.

The Shulchan Aruch states (תרע:ב) that there is no obligation to make a festive meal on Hanukkah. Unlike Purim, in which we have “feasting and joy”, the purpose of Hanukkah is to Thank and Praise (להודות ולהלל). Therefore, a physical manifestation is not required. On Purim our physical existence was threatened. Hanukkah challenged our spiritual lives. Thus the focus of the celebrating is the expression of gratitude for being able to survive as Jews.

Gratitude is the hallmark of the Jewish people. We are called Jews specifically because Leah named her son Yehuda to acknowledge HaShem’s gifts through the birth of a fourth son (הפעם אודה את ה).

When the “big” things happen (a birth, a financial windfall, the Orioles winning), it is easy for one to express appreciation and offer praise for their good fortune.

As Jews, however, we must acknowledge every gift and kindness from Above, no matter how minute it may seem.

We are equally charged to express our thanks to others who bestow good on us. הכרת הטוב (showing appreciation) is central to our interpersonal relationships.

Our day begins with our uttering the words אני מודה, “I thank/acknowledge” You for giving me another day of life.

One of the longest blessings of the Shmoneh Esrai is the brocha of “Hodaah”, giving thanks. Within that blessing is the paragraph of מודים in which we mention both נסים and נפלאות. These terms convey our acknowledgement of both the “big” and “little” things in our lives that we might take for granted.

Imagine if that each time that we recite מודים we would think about at least one little chesed (“wink”) from HaShem for which we are grateful. That parking spot that we found with ease, a short line at the Post Office or the beautiful weather on that day. Similarly, our simple acknowledgement of courtesy or simple kindness from others can make this world an even better place.

Our ancestor Leah imbued deep within us the character to thank and acknowledge all that is good in our lives. When we show appreciation to HaShem for the “little things” there is Divine inspiration for even more benevolence.

Perhaps that is the connection between the “small vessels” of Yaakov Avinu and the “big” miracle of the oil lasting for an additional 7 days.

Yaakov Avinu realized that one must not only appreciate the major kindnesses in life. It’s the little things that count as well. His devotion and appreciation for everything that HaShem bestowed on him paved the way for the seemingly bigger miracles that can and will come.

May our gratitude for all of the “little vessels” in our life open the way for even greater things, on a personal ,national and global level.

Shabbat Shalom and Hanukkah Sameach

About the Author
Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal, noted educator and speaker, is the Executive Director at Lema'an Achai.
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