Rabbanit Shira SmilesShira Smiles is a sought-after international lecturer, popular seminary teacher and experienced curriculum developer. A well-respected former Los Angeles teacher, she now lives in Israel, where she teaches at Darchei Bina Seminary and leads a number of women's study groups. Shira also trains Torah teachers in special workshops all over the world.
At the end of Hilchos Shabbat, laws of the Sabbath day, the Rambam describes the lighting of the Hanukkah candles as a mitzvah Chaviva (a precious mitzvah), because it publicizes the miracle of Hanukkah and all the miracles that Hashem performs for us. Rambam considers the mitzvah of lighting the menorah to be the enactment of Hodu V’Halel (gratitude and praise), the concrete way we show our appreciation to Hashem for all that he does.
This mitzvah is so important that if one has to choose between making kiddush and lighting the menorah, then one should light the menorah. Even if a person has no money and must sell his clothes he should do so in order to be able to perform the mitzvah of lighting the Hanukkah Menorah. However, despite the preeminence of lighting the Hanukkah Menorah, if one has to choose between lighting the Menorah and lighting Shabbat candles, one should light Shabbat candles. The reason for this is that Shabbat Candles facilitate Shalom Bayis (peace in the home).
Two questions will help us understand this concept::
!) What is this Shalom Bayis that will make lighting Shabbat candles take precedence over lighting the Hanukkah Menorah?
2) We know that the Hanukkah candles publicize the revelation of Hashem's G-dliness and express gratitude to Hashem for all the miracles that he does for us. This is an expression of our faith in a very concrete way. R. Pincus, z"l, asks: How can it be that Shalom Bayis overrules lighting the Menorah, the fundamental expression of our faith? .
We know that we are allowed to benefit from the Shabbat Candles to make our homes brighter, which was more relevant before electricity. Hanukkah candles, on the other hand, may not be used for any other purpose than publicizing the miracle.. A dark home is uncomfortable and frustrating, so on the simplest level, Shabbat candles will make the home a more pleasant and peaceful place.
R. Wolfson quotes in "Wellsprings of Faith", that the dimensions of the Shabbat and Hanukkah candles are separate and distinct. While the wicks and oil for Shabbat lights are held to a very high standard, there really are no standards of quality for the materials used for the Hanukkah candles. In addition, Shabbat candles can be lit in a high place and Ner Hanukkah are supposed to be lit closer to the ground (under 10 Tefachim).
R. Wolfson notes the idea of the Sfas Emes that the lights symbolize the Jewish soul, which is represented in distinct ways for the Shabbat and Hanukkah lights. Shabbat can be a time of heightened spiritual awareness and during which an individual is surrounded by an aura of kedusha (holiness). Unfortunately, not every Jew, even every Shomer Shabbat, Jew attains this level. The Hanukkah candles, however, are lit closer to the ground in order to bring their light down to the lowest level to meet us where we are and to ignite our souls.
Hashem does not usually descend so low. However, it is as if the Heavenly Presence, the Shechina, is making a Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick) to rest on the souls in the lowest places of darkness and despair to administer the healing light of Hanukkah. Even those Jews who are not able to be kindled by Shabbat, can experience the holiness and spiritual illumination of Hanukkah.
This is why Hanukkah is the Gmar Chasima, (end of the judgment period), in which we are offered one more chance to feel the closeness of Hashem and to, as R.Wolfson expresses: "do teshuvah, repent, and to serve G-d with fiery enthusiasm and great wisdom."
"Sichos Bavodat Hashem" by R. Meizlish , reminds us that the time after lighting the Hanukkah Menorah is an extremely valuable time to pray. There are many prayers that are commonly said at this time, but as R. Meizlish reminds us, it is a very special time to connect to Hashem and ask for ANYTHING we need in the areas of ruchniyos (spirituality) or gashmiyus (physicality).
On a philosophical level, Shabbat offers us a taste of spiritual bliss; an internal Shalom Bayis. "Asufos Marochos" by R. Goldvicht, explains that Shabbat is the unity of body and soul, when our sins are no longer pulling us away from Hashem in various directions. This is the achdus (oneness) of the world to come, when our bodies and souls will be working in tandem and we are unified with Hashem. .
When the Jews received the first set of Tablets, Luchot, at Har Sinai, they had the potential, like Adam HaRishon before his sin, to experience this oneness of body and soul and live forever. The written Torah as well as the Oral Torah were engraved on the Luchot. With these Luchot, Hashem gave us the Torah in a way that we would never have forgotten. However, due to the sin of the golden calf this first set of Luchot were broken and placed in the Aron HaKodesh (holy ark) for safe keeping, to be brought out, whole, at the time of Mashiach. These broken Luchot, like Shabbat, represent the state of perfection. They provide a vision of the potential spiritual heights we can achieve.
Unlike the broken Luchot, the second set of Luchot did not contain the Oral Law, the Torah She B'Al Pe. The light of Hanukkah represents the second set of Luchot and the Oral Torah. The laws of Hanukkah represent the quintessential model of Torah She B'Al Pe. Due to the sin of the golden calf, we must expend much more effort to learn and remember Torah and to reach the spiritual heights of Shabbat. R. Goldvicht suggests that the second Luchot gain energy from the broken Luchot, just as we can gain light and clarity from the heightened spiritual state of Shabbat.
On Shabbat we are in a perfected state, in sinc in our lives, our Torah, and our avodas Hashem. Shabbat is where we are headed. Shabbat, given to us by Hashem every week, is a place shlaimos (wholeness), Shalom Bayis, and oneness in our service to Hashem. Hanukkah represents our broken pieces and disparity; the world of struggle, challenge, and contention-the darkness of Galus (exile). Ner Hanukkah strive to reach the level of Ner Shabbat.
With this in mind we can appreciate the power of Shabbat Hanukkah. By Erev, the eve of, Shabbat Hanukkah, explains the "Nesivos Shalom", we have had previous nights of lighting Hanukkah candles. Hashem has joined with us at the lowest levels to pull us out of our depths and then we are able to elevate ourselves to spiritual heights with Ner, candles of, Shabbat.. Now, if we must choose between lighting the Shabbat candles or the Hanukkah candles, we choose the Shabbat candles to reach for the higher level of holiness, to the palace of the King, which is our goal and destination.
In the Al HaNissim prayer said on Hanukkah, we recall the war between the Jews and the Greeks; the struggle between the weak against the strong; and the few against the many; but the war of Hanukkah is also the inner struggle within ourselves
This is why the Shabbat candles must be of high quality, but the Hanukkah candles do not need to be perfect. The Hanukkah candles represent us struggling between light and darkness, body and soul, reaching for the inner tranquility of Shalom Bayis.
We place the Hanukkah menorah at the entrance to our homes and hearts as a guide to where we want to go. We are only allowed to stare at the Hanukkah candles and not use them for anything else. This is a time for introspection. When the candle sputters and we are not sure if it is going to light, we can remember the broken Luchot and have a vision of inspiration, unity, and Shalom Bayis. It is a time when we want to bring light into darkness and strive for the holiness of Shabbat. It is a time to let Hashem in, to publicize His miracles, and to take the miraculous and apply it to our daily lives, preparing ourselves for the perfected time of wholeness when Mashiach arrives.
R. Pincus Z"L discusses the Or HaGanuz, the hidden light, in a beautiful essay about Shabbat. The Or HaGAnuz is the light of clarity that Hashem created with the world, but hid in the Torah, because he foresaw that it would be abused.
R. Pincus, Z”L, notes that this original light bursts forth on holidays, which is why we call them Yomim Tovim (good days) because they contain the light that Hashem called Good. The essence of each Yom Tov is the Torah that we perform in celebration of that Yom Tov.
We see, R. Pincus, Z"L, explains, that the Or HaGanuz is hidden in the Torah because each holiday has its own Tractate in Talmud. The one exception is Hanukkah, which the Gemara discusses in the chapter of BaMe Madlikin in Tractate Shabbat. The fact that the laws of Hanukkah are discussed in Tractate Shabbat shows, according to R. Pincus, Z”L, the intrinsic relationship between Shabbat and Hanukkah.
We experience the Or HaGanuz every Shabbat and the whole world changes. Hashem created the world with light and we begin Shabbat by lighting candles. Shabbat brings us the clarity to understand Ain Od Milvado, there is no other reality besides Hashem This is what the Greeks, who only believed in the world of natural order, wanted to destroy with their proclamation against Shabbat.
Shabbat gives us the opportunity to see the world in shlaimus (wholeness), providing a taste of the world to come. We understand why we are here in the world and why Hashem does what he does. The pieces of the puzzle come together to give us an internal Shalom Bayis. The days of the week, on the other hand, are night. The world hasn't really changed, but we no longer have the light of clarity and truth. We are fragmented and we can't understand how the pieces fit together.
This is the reason why Hanukkah is discussed in Tractate Shabbat in that "the essence of Hanukkah is the same as the essence of Shabbat." During Shabbat we have the clarity to reaffirm our faith in Hashem as the sole provider and we feel an elevated sense of closeness to Him. Then suddenly we are plummeted into the darkness of the rest of the week. We lose that clarity of vision that we gained on Shabbat in the fog of the mundane activities of our work week.
Hanukkah comes to rescue us. Since there are no work restrictions on Hanukkah, Hanukkah shows us that we can maintain a constant awareness of Hashem by elevating the rest of the week, like we do on Shabbat. The light of Hanukkah, symbolized by the Menorah lights, brings us clarity of vision and reaffirmation of our faith in Hashem, during the dark and murky days of the work week Hanukkah is a portion of Shabbat because Hanukkah "quintessentially brings the power of Shabbat into the week."
R. Strickoff explains that Hanukkah is examined specifically in BaMay Madlikin, the section of Tractate Shabbat, which discusses lighting Shabbat candles, because the lights of Hanukkah are part of the lights of Shabbat. This is why when we have a choice between lighting Hanukkah candles and lighting Shabbat candles, we must choose Shabbat candles.
Hanukkah comes to teach us the challenge of bringing the beauty of Shabbat into our everyday lives. Staring at the lights of Hanukkah we can see what is really important. Our souls are able to see the splendor of a higher dimension.. We can move away from the extraneous details of our everyday lives and see the essence, but we must not only see the essence- we must live the essence.
In our times we, B"H, we don't need to choose between lighting Shabbat candles and lighting Hanukkah candles, but we learn that if one were to choose, one must choose Shabbat candles, which represent the model of Shalom Bayis. As the hassidic volume, "Sichos Hitchazkut" suggests, this is the goal of Hanukkah. It is a time to give tzaddakah (charity,) to pray for others, and to live in peace and harmony within ourselves, within our families, and within our communities.
As we look into our Hanukkah candles and introspect with intensity, the light of the Or HGanuz will give each of us the clarity to realize that Hashem is running the world in the most precise and balanced way. Hashem has tailor-made our lives and is taking care of us. That is the greatest publicizing of the miracle called life. We give thanks and praise to Hashem for making it possible for us to take the pieces of our lives to reach the ultimate golden goal of Peace.
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