29 December, 2019
1 Tevet, 5780
Thank you to our Pilot Partner Synagogues and Schools:
How do we each bring our own individual light to the world?
Be a Lamp Lighter
The revered Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn zt”l, once shared the following teaching:
A student asked the Rebbe, “How does one become a pious Jew?”
The Rebbe replied, “To be a Jew is to be like a street-lamp lighter.”
“In the olden days, there was a person in every town who would light the gas street lamps with a fire that he carried at the end of a long stick. On the street corner the lamps were there ready to be lit. The lamplighter knows that the fire is not his own personal fire to keep for himself. He goes from lamp to lamp to set them alight.
Today, there are so many lamps just waiting to be lit.
It is written, “The soul of the human is a lamp of God”( Proverbs 20:27).
A pious Jew is one who puts personal affairs aside and goes around lighting up the souls of others with Torah and with mitzvot. Jewish souls are ready to be lit...it is simply a matter of uncovering the spark that is hidden within. ‘
When you reach out with the essence of your soul, then the essence of your soul bonds with the essence of your friend’s soul; when you reach out with love, the Godliness within your soul unites with the Godliness in your friend’s soul. In this way the lamp is lit.
This is the true calling of a Jew, to be a lamplighter- Your mission is to light up souls.
The act of taking the shamash candle in our hand and placing its flame to the wicks of the candles can be seen in our eyes as a metaphor of a ‘street-lamplighter’. Lighting the Chanukah candles each night puts us in this mode and spirit to take the next step and light up all those who we can possibly reach.
Why don’t we know the name of this Chanukah hero?
Consider this teaching from Pirkei Avot:
אַנְטִיגְנוס אִישׁ סוֹכוֹ קִבֵּל מִשִּׁמְעוֹן הַצַּדִּיק. הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, אַל תִּהְיוּ כַעֲבָדִים הַמְשַׁמְּשִׁין אֶת הָרַב עַל מְנָת
. לְקַבֵּל פְּרָס, אֶלָּא הֱווּ כַעֲבָדִים הַמְשַׁמְּשִׁין אֶת הָרַב שֶׁלֹּא עַל מְנָת לְקַבֵּל פְּרָס, וִיהִי מוֹרָא שָׁמַיִם עֲלֵיכֶם
(פרקי אבות א:ג)
Antigonus a man of Socho received [the oral tradition] from Shimon the Righteous. He used to say: do not be like servants who serve the master in the expectation of receiving a reward, but be like servants who serve the master without the expectation of receiving a reward, and let the fear of Heaven be upon you. (Pirkei Avot 1:3)
Performing a mitzvah for no other reason other than for the sake of the mitzvah is called a mitzvah ‘lishmah”,’ for the sake of God’s name. How special it is when one does an act of goodness, not to receive credit or gain publicity but rather only to serve Hashem! Perhaps this was the intent of the anonymous hero of Chanukah!
How will we remember the heroine Yehudit for all time?
Two special Jewish laws were put into place to remember Yehudit and the unique contribution of women in the days of Chanukah:
- ערוך השולחן אורח חיים סימן תרע
…..נעשה נס ע"י יהודית שהשקתה את האויב חלב ועל סמך זה יש מדקדקין לאכול גבינה בחנוכה
Aruch Hashulchan Orach Chaim 670
A miracle was performed by Yehudit, who fed the enemy milk. And on this basis there are some who are meticulous to eat cheese on Chanukah.
- שלחן ערוך אורח חיים תרע:א
בכ"ה בכסליו (מתחילים) שמונת ימי חנוכה ואסורים בהספד ותענית אבל מותרין בעשיית מלאכה ונוהגות הנשים שלא לעשות מלאכה בעוד שהנרות דולקות ויש מי שאומר שאין להקל להם
Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 670:1
On the 25th of Kislev (start) the eight days of Hanukkah, and they are prohibited for eulogizing and fasting, but are permitted for doing work. The women have made it a custom not to do work while the candles are burning. And there is [an opinion] that says that we may not be lenient for them.
- משנה ברורה תרע:ג
(ג) הנשים - דוקא נשים לפי שנעשה נס על ידיהם כדלקמיה בס"ב בהג"ה ויש מקומות שגם האנשים מחמירים בזה:
Mishna Berurah 670:3
“Women, in particular, are honored because the miracle happened due to them…”
What lesson was Shammai teaching by lighting one less candle each night?
The Talmud offers two answers to this question. Here is another possible way of understanding Shammai’s reasoning. When the Torah describes the menorah the following details are conveyed:
דַּבֵּר֙ אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֔ן וְאָמַרְתָּ֖ אֵלָ֑יו בְּהַעֲלֹֽתְךָ֙ אֶת־הַנֵּרֹ֔ת אֶל־מוּל֙ פְּנֵ֣י הַמְּנוֹרָ֔ה יָאִ֖ירוּ שִׁבְעַ֥ת הַנֵּרֽוֹת׃
Speak to Aharon and say to him, “When you light the lamps, let the seven lamps give light towards to center of menorah.” (Numbers 8:2)
Rashi explains that the way to perceive the menorah is to picture all the different lights turned towards the middle. Perhaps Beit Shammai is suggesting that our celebration should resemble the Menorah of the Beit HaMikdash: A single flame is to be the focus, representing the Oneness of God.
Why is lighting of the menorah specifically connected to the Jewish home?
The following beautiful poem, written by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook zt”l captures the notion that each person, each household has a unique spirit to share with the world. What is your unique contribution?
‘Everyone must know
That within burns a candle
No one’s candle is like his or hers fellow’s candle No one lacks their own candle
Everyone must know
That it is their task to reveal their light to the world
To ignite it until it is a great flame
And to illuminate the universe.’
Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook zt”l (The first Chief Rabbi of Israel, 1865-1935)
צריך שכל איש ידע ויבין, שבתוך תוכו דולק נר, ואין נרו שלו כנר חברו, ואין איש שאין לו נר. וצריך שכל איש ידע ויבין, שעליו לעמול ולגלות
את אור הנר ברבים, ולהדליקו לאבוקה גדולה ולהאיר את העולם כולו.
הרב אברהם יצחק הכהן קוק זצ”ל
What is the special connection between Aharon and the holiday of Chanukah?
הִלֵּל וְשַׁמַּאי קִבְּלוּ מֵהֶם. הִלֵּל אוֹמֵר, הֱוֵי מִתַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל אַהֲרֹן, אוֹהֵב שָׁלוֹם וְרוֹדֵף שָׁלוֹם, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת וּמְקָרְב לַתּוֹרָה
(פרקי אבות א:י"ב)
Hillel and Shammai received [the oral tradition] from them. Hillel used to say: be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving mankind and drawing them close to the Torah. (Pirkei Avot 1:12)
"Be of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace"
When Aharon would see two people quarreling, he would go to each one of them without the knowledge of his fellow and say to him, “Behold how your fellow is regretting that he sinned against you; and he told me that I should come to you so that you will forgive him.” And as a result of this, when they bumped into each other, they would make peace with one another.
(Avot DeRabbi Natan)
The Chassidic Masters describe Chanukah as a “holiday of love”. Sadly, in the days of Chanaukah there developed a great divide within the Jewish people . They broke down into two groups Yehudim (Jews) and Mityavnim (Jews who had adopted a Greek lifestyle). The miracle of Chanukah inspired the Jewish people to unify once again!
Aharon Hakohen was the first to ever light the Menorah. It seems most fitting that he be the figure to represent the ‘Holiday of Peace and Love.”
Why do we light for 8 nights? Wasn't the miracle only 7 nights?
Here are three classic answers given to the famous question of Rav Yosef Caro (among the hundreds that have been offered!)
a. The first day commemorates the miraculous battle victories and the following seven the miracle of the oil. (Pri Chadash , Orach Chaim 670)
b. The menorah miraculously consumed only one-eighth of the oil each night (HaRav Chaim Brisker cited by HaRav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, ‘The Festivals in Halacha’)
c. The first day commemorates the fact the the pure oil was miraculously found at all. (Sefer HaEshkol, Vol. 2, Hilchot Chanukah V’Purim, 6)
Can you think of another answer of your own?
What miracles do you see around you?
Each day in the following prayer we thank Hashem for “the numerous miracles that surround us.” It is clear that the prayer asks us to identify the miracles in our lives each and every day.
What ‘miracles’ are we referring to in this prayer?
מודִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ. שָׁאַתָּה הוּא ה' אֱלקינוּ וֵאלקי אֲבותֵינוּ לְעולָם וָעֶד. צוּר חַיֵּינוּ. מָגֵן יִשְׁעֵנוּ אַתָּה הוּא לְדור וָדור: נודֶה לְּךָ וּנְסַפֵּר תְּהִלָּתֶךָ עַל חַיֵּינוּ הַמְּסוּרִים בְּיָדֶךָ. וְעַל נִשְׁמותֵינוּ הַפְּקוּדות לָךְ. וְעַל נִסֶּיךָ שֶׁבְּכָל יום עִמָּנוּ. וְעַל נִפְלְאותֶיךָ וְטובותֶיךָ שֶׁבְּכָל עֵת. עֶרֶב וָבקֶר וְצָהֳרָיִם: הַטּוב כִּי לא כָלוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ. וְהַמְרַחֵם כִּי לא תַמּוּ חֲסָדֶיךָ. מֵעולָם קִוִּינוּ לָךְ
We gratefully thank You, for You, O Lord our God, are our fathers' God for all eternity, our Rock, our Shield of salvation, generation to generation. We thank You and recount Your praise for our lives. We trust our lives into Your loving hand. Our souls are in Your custody and Your miracles are with us every day and Your wonders and goodness are with us at all times: evening, morning and noon. You are good, for Your mercies never fail us, and the Compassionate One, for Your loving kindness never ceases; forever we have placed our hope in You.
(Daily Amidah Prayer)