Rosh Chodesh Kislev: Kavanot
We derive the appellation for God’s Name, used in the Rosh Chodesh Mussaf – Additional Prayer – from the combination of letters and vowels of the following verse: “When the Canaanite inhabitants of the land saw the mourning in Goren HaAtad, they said, ‘This is a grievous mourning for Egypt.’” (Genesis 50:11) Vayar Yosheiv Haaretz Hakenaani –VYHH.
I. Stability & Eternal Possibility
The Zohar (Volume 1 250b) explains that this verse describes a person’s reactions to witnessing the limitations of those perceived to have great power. Although many will rejoice upon witnessing the weakness of a foe, our stability is threatened when the powers that preserve stability show their limitations. The Canaanite nations witnessed Egypt’s, the world’s stabilizing super power, weakness and understood that nothing would ever be the same.
Egypt’s point of vulnerability was their dependence on Jacob and his merit. What began as a family seeking food and safe haven became a family serving as a source of blessing for Egypt and the nations under its influence.
When the Chashmonaim battled the Syrian-Greek armies, and even managed to win a few battles, they proved the Greek’s vulnerabilities. The Chashmonaim shook the political and military foundations of their world. Even the Greek’s enemies were concerned for the future now that the super power had shown its weaknesses.
The Sages’ reaction was to create something eternal; Chanukah, a festival that will last forever. Other nations felt vulnerable. The Sages experienced possibility.
God gave us the Oral Law that provides stability even in a world that seems to have lost its bearings. We pray in Rosh Chodesh for the ability to access the wisdom of the Oral Law so that we can find stability and even possibility, despite external circumstances.
II. Which Point of View
What did the Canaanites see? They saw the huge procession that accompanied Jacob’s coffin and realized that it would be unwise to support any effort by Esau to attack Jacob’s family. What was their reward? God delayed Israel in the desert for forty years to grant the Canaanites another generation in their land. (Yalkut Or Ha’Afeila – Torah Shelaimah Genesis 50 #40) Another Midrash (Midrash HaCheifetz, Genesis 50:10) explains that the Canaanites saw the Egyptians mourning and understood that they did not intend a military invasion.
The verse is clear that all the nations understood that Jacob’s death was a national disaster for Egypt. They witnessed how one human being, not a warrior, hero or politician, could impact nations simply with his being. Yet, the Midrashim describe the Canaanites as ignoring the spiritual implications of Egypt’s mourning and focusing on their typical military concerns.
People choose how what they ‘see’ in a situation and how to react. The Sages waited a year before officially instituting Chanukah, in order to determine how Israel would view the Chanukah miracle and which lessons they would take from the experience and apply to their lives.
Chanukah is a celebration of a nation in military and political distress that chose to view their situation exactly the opposite way from which the Canaanites viewed Jacob’s funeral procession.
The Shefa – Divine Abundance – we receive during Kislev allows us to see the world and events through the same lens as the Sages at the time of the Chanukah story.
We should concentrate on this Appellation in order to be granted greater clarity.
Rabbi Chaim Vital taught that when the Canaanite nations saw the procession, they ‘saw’ that Israel would leave Egypt and the super power would fail. They saw the greatness of Israel and understood that Israel would always survive and thrive. (Sefer Halikkutim)
The Sages saw the eternal impact of the Chanukah story and understood that within those events lay the key for Israel’s survival through the long exile.
Kislev is the month in which we can access Divine Sustenance to appreciate eternal Heavenly impact of our actions.
Concentrate on the Divine gift of appreciating the other worldly implications of all we do when reciting the Name of God in this blessing.