Chanukah – Thanking and Praising Hashem

A central theme of Chanukah is our duty to thank and praise Hashem – l’hodos ul’hallel. During Chanukah we focus on thanking and praising Hashem for the miraculous victory over our oppressors and the miracle of the menorah oil. Yet, in truth, through the ordinary operation of the world, Hashem is doing wondrous kindnesses for us all the time. We can thus take the observance of Chanukah as an opportunity to rejuvenate our enthusiasm for thanking and praising Hashem for the everyday wonders and blessings He provides us.
In Bereishis Rabbah 8:1, the Midrash teaches that man was the last to be created, and also appears last in the chorus of praise to Hashem. In support of the latter point, the Midrash cites Tehillim 148, a psalm we say every day in Pesukei D’Zimra, which describes this chorus of praise. The psalm begins with the heavenly realm: the angels, the sun, the moon, the stars, and so on. It then continues with the earthly realm: the sea and its creatures; fire, hail, snow, and wind; mountains, hills, and trees; animals, insects, and birds. Finally comes man: the nations of the world with their kings, officers, and judges; men and women, the old and the young.
The Maggid, in Ohel Yaakov, parashas Bereishis, expounds on this Midrash. He explains that man was created last because he incorporates the traits of all other creations. As the Zohar on parashas Bereishis says, man is a “miniature universe,” encompassing all the rest of creation. The Maggid then goes on to explain why man appears last in the chorus of praise.
He brings out the point through an analogy to a nobleman who goes traveling with his entire household, his family and all his servants, and spends some time in an inn. The servants dine on modest fare, and accumulate limited expenses, while the nobleman and his family dine on delicacies and accumulate enormous expenses. When the time comes to settle up with the innkeeper, the nobleman asks him for an itemized bill showing the charges for each member of his party. He then collects from the servants the modest sum charged for what they consumed, adds the large sum charged for what he and his family consumed, and pays the innkeeper on behalf of the entire group.
Man is a nobleman whose “household” comprises all the other creations of the world – which, as our Sages teach, are all servants of man (Kiddushin 82b). Now, the entire world owes Hashem praise for what He provides. Yet, except for man, the creations of the world can express only limited praise. They lack free will and the power of speech. Man, who possesses these special assets, can express more meaningful praise. Moreover, man is the master over all other creations, and is endowed with all their traits. He therefore has the duty to pay Hashem the balance of the praise He is due. Man is mentioned last in Tehillim 148 because he brings the world’s praise to Hashem to its fitting completion. When man praises Hashem with his entire being, it is if the entire world is offering Hashem the grandest praise.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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