1. Regarding the Chanukah lights, it is stated “They will never be abolished.” Besides the plain meaning of this statement, that the mitzvah of Chanukah lights exist not only in the times of the Bais HaMikdash, but “also after the destruction, in our exile,” it also has the meaning that the days of Chanukah every year have an eternal
element: Their effect lasts the entire year (until the next Chanukah). Although the effect of every
Yom Tov (and likewise every mitzvah which occurs intermittently) lasts until it occurs the next time, the effect of Chanukah has a stronger, more enduring effect — as witnessed by the phrase “they will never be abolished” being applied only to the Chanukah lights.
The explanation of this is as follows: The verse (Shmuel , 22:29) states: “For You are my lamp, O’ L-rd; and the L-rd lightens my darkness.” “And the L-rd lightens my darkness” is the concept of Chanukah, which is loftier than “You are my lamp O’ L-rd.” “You are my lamp O’ L-rd” corresponds to G-d’s Name as it is below. The illumination from this Name can sometimes be concealed (from the perspective of people below). Whereas in the level of “and the L-rd” — G-d’s Name as it is Above, which is higher than the concealments of below, there are no changes. It affects the below in a way that even if there is “darkness,” “the L-rd lightens my darkness.” This causes the “superiority of light that comes from prior darkness,” and the “superiority of wisdom that comes from prior fully. “ This is the reason why the Chanukah lights are different from all other mitzvos, that specifically they are eternal — “they will never be abolished.”
Hence, this day of Zos Chanukah is the appropriate time to remind everyone of the lessons derived from the Chanukah lights for the entire year. These lessons are in the area of “Torah which is light,” the wisdom of G-d (and, as above, the Chanukah lights are associated with the “superiority of light” and the “superiority of wisdom”); and also in the area of “mitzvos which are a lamp.” These are things in which all Jews are equal, just as Chanukah is equally relevant for men and women.
2. There are three main points associated with the Chanukah lights:
1. It is a mitzvah literally associated with “light.”
2. It is a simple unquestioned custom in our times to add an extra light each successive night of Chanukah.
3. The Chanukah lights must be kindled “at the entrance to one’s house on the outside” — their light must illuminate the ‘outside.’
Let us examine each of these points separately:
Light has no intrinsic limitations in the scope of its illuminatory power. One can place a barrier to prevent its illumination reaching further. But without such an external limitation, distance has no effect on light. Although the further from its source, the more feeble the light, nevertheless, since light itself resembles
its source, then no matter how far it may be from its source, it still remains connected to and resembles it.
The lesson from this is that our service to G-d should resemble ‘light,’ — it must have no limitations or differences (it must always resemble the source).
Adding an extra light each night is termed by the Talmud as a custom of the “most pious.” The conduct of the most pious is to always increase in holy matters — even though the previous night’s mitzvah was done in the most pious way possible, the next night must see yet another light added.
The lesson from this is that in our times it must be the simple unquestioned custom to increase in “the mitzvah which is a lamp and Torah which is light” every day. Although the previous day’s service to G-d (in Torah and Mitzvos) was whole and perfect, since it is now a new day, extra service is now required. Only then is a person in the category of the ‘most pious.’ At the entrance to one’s house on the outside:
This point has nothing to do with piety but how to perform the mitzvah. It teaches us that a Jew cannot remain content with his own personal service, but must illuminate his entire ‘house’ — his household, and further still, illuminate the ‘outside,’ those Jews who are ‘outside’ (of Judaism).
Moreover, the length of time which the Chanukah lights must burn is “until the feet of the Tarmudoi have ceased.”11 ‘Tarmudoi’ is comprised of the same letters as ‘Moredes,’ rebellion. In spiritual terms, this means that we must illuminate even those Jews who are G-d forbid rebellious, until we have achieved that “the feet of the Tarmudoi have ceased.” The word for ‘ceased’ — ‘Kaliaya,’ is related to the word ‘kilayon,’ (meaning expiration of the soul due to its ecstatic desire of union with G-d). Our job is to influence such people to the degree that they have a burning desire for Judaism, which is translated into deed (“the feet of the Tarmudoi”).
A further point is that ‘outside’ also includes non-Jews, and the light from the Chanukah lights illuminates for them also. Moreover, the adding of an extra light each day affects them also, making more and more light for them in the ‘outside.’
This provides a lesson for the entire year. A Jew’s mission is also to influence non-Jews, to help shed more light on those things in which a non-Jew has his mission: Starting from the Seven Noachide Laws, and reaching the realization that their mission is to help Jews in all matters of Judaism, including helping Jews in their physical needs. For a Jew must have peace of soul and body (children, life and sustenance (all of them) in plenty) to learn Torah and perform mitzvos to perfection.
Furthermore, in the times of Mashiach there will be no desire for physical things, except insofar it frees a person to study Torah. Nevertheless, there will be physical things in plenty, to the extent that “delicacies will be plentiful as dust.” Its purpose will be only so that people can engage and be successful in the mission of “to know the L-rd..., to the degree that “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the L-rd as the waters cover the sea.”
Since the future time is “dependent on our deeds and service during the exile,” we must prepare our deeds in the following fashion: In Egypt, “all the Jews had light in their dwelling places” even before the exodus. Wherever a Jew went (during the plague of darkness), even into an Egyptian house, he had light. The purpose of this was that a Jew should be able to see everything in the Egyptians’ houses, so that later the Egyptians would fulfill their obligations incumbent on them at the time — to give Jews their “gold and silver vessels, and clothing.”
In similar fashion, today, while yet in the last days of exile, all Jews must have “light in their dwelling places.” This must be such that it also illuminates non-Jews, so that they can fulfill their mission of helping Jews in all their (physical) needs.
The above provides a special lesson for our times. The world today is in a terrifying decline, and is crumbling apart before our very eyes. A Jew must know that the existence and stability of the world is dependent upon him. When Jews learn Torah and fulfill mitzvos properly, then the world is made peaceful and stable.
In plain terms, this means that we must increase in Torah study, performance of mitzvos, and most of all, prayer. The Shulchan Aruch states that (the order of the day is that) first of all one prays; then studies Torah; then performs mitzvos. Then we have the three pillars on which the world stands and exists — “Torah, prayer, and deeds of loving kindness.”
- (Back to text) Trans. Note: Meaning, the lights must burn until the time the Tarmudoi have departed from the streets. They were street peddlers who sold lighting materials, and waited in the streets later than the general populace, as their wares might be needed (Rashi, Shab. 21b).
- (Back to text) Trans. Note: This refers to G-d’s command to the Jews that when they departed from Egypt they should “empty out” Egypt — they should request from the Egyptians all their valuables secreted in their houses. Should an Egyptian deny the existence of any such valuables, the Jew would point out their exact location, having seen them for himself during the plague of darkness — when the Egyptians were paralyzed, and the Jews alone could move and see everything.