וַיִּפֹּל עַל צַוָּארָיו, וַיֵּבְךְּ עַל צַוָּארָיו עוֹד.(בראשית מו:כט)
Rashi comments that Yoseph cried when he kissed his father, but Yaakov was occupied with saying keriyas shema. The Mefarshim ask: If it was the time to say keriyas shema, why was only Yaakov saying it, and not Yosef; and if it was not the time to say keriyas shema, why was anyone saying it!?
There are those who answer that Yosef understood that he was fulfilling the mitzvah of kibud av v’aim, and being that that was so, he was pre-occupied with one mitzvah and therefore exempt from the mitzvah of keriyas shema. On the other hand, Yaakov was not involved in a mitzvah at that moment and therefore he took the opportunity to fulfill his obligation to say keriyas shema.
One of the difficulties that I have with this explanation is that it is not clear what Chazal are trying to teach us. While it is clear that at different times, different people have different obligations, but what are we to learn from this?
There is another explanation given: Yaakov felt elated at this moment, and Chazal are telling us that at the precise moment when a person becomes filled with euphoria, that is the time to connect to Hashem. Classically, this connection is made by saying keriyas shema.
There is a varied version of this answer which is that when a person has a new revelation and a deeper understanding of who Hashem is, that in itself a “zeman keriyas shema” – a time to affirm one’s connection to this new reality.
As Chanukah starts to fade and become only a memory, we reluctantly clean and put away our menorahs. We can take heart from the lesson taught to us through Chazal about the ability to connect to Hashem through saying keriyas shema. When one takes the opportunity to connect at the opportune time, such as when Yaakov used his joyous moment of meeting his beloved son, that connection can then last throughout the day. When one does this, one adds a spiritual aspect to the moment, which in turn makes it eternal. So too, the person who elevates himself, also needs a new, elevated connection to Hashem.
This gives new meaning to the comfort given to Aharon, that the lights of Chanukah have in them the power to keep the relationship of the chanukahs habayis at multiple levels, so that even in the darkness of the long galus, we stay connected.