Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-MeirEyal ben Ayish

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Imagine that you have enough money for just one thing - Shabbat candles or Hanukkah candles. Today we light six Hanukkah candles and after them Shabbat candles, but let's suppose that we don't have enough money for both. Which are more important?

Rabbi Eyal Greiner, head of a hesder yeshivah (that combines Torah learning with army service) in Moshav Tefahot up north, explains in his new book about Hanukkah that the Gemara debates this matter and reaches an unequivocal conclusion: Shabbat candles come first. We should first concern ourselves with lighting up our home on the inside, light that symbolizes shalom bayit (peace in the home), family togetherness, our private world in here. Only afterwards do we concern ourselves with lighting up the street, the world out there.

This is an important principle: With all due respect to our activity on the outside, it has no meaning when what goes on inside is lacking in light. We need to first illuminate ourselves and our homes and only then will we illuminate the world.

Here are two additional thoughts about Hanukkah, for the last night of the holiday, that I heard from Eden Harel. One thought is very spiritual and one is very practical.

"The struggle of Hannukah is not over. In contrast to other enemies who wanted to destroy us, the Greeks said: We have no problem that you will continue to live, as long as it's without your sprituality. They did not want to kill, only to make decrees to undermine our identity. Therefore the war with them is not over and it's the longest war. It's a cultural war against our style of life, our worldview. How we define beauty, how we define success, how we define happiness. This is a struggle that is still with us, even at this moment in time.”

"In many hasidic books it is written that we must look deeply into the flames of the Hanukkah candles. All year long we see things that we would rather not see, that have nothing to do with us, so many advertisements and videos that pop up constantly, whether we are in the street or on social media. Hanukkah is an opportunity to enlighten our eyes, to purify our vision, to simply sit quietly and gaze at the holy light that the candles emit.”

And then I recalled that these beautiful thoughts on the clash between popular culture and Hanukkah were coming from the same media personality who, in my childhood, served as a host on MTV and later adopted a life of Torah and mitzvot. Happy last night of Hanukkah.