Listening To The Lights

by Rabbi Yisroel Rubin

Listen to the Chanuka lights, the Previous Rebbe used to say, for each one has its own story to tell.

On the first night of Chanuka, all eight candle holders are ready. But we light only one, leaving the rest empty.

The next night we light two candles, and eventually we light all eight. But on the first night, we light only one.

"A mitzva is compared to a candle and the Torah is light." In keeping with the above, we should aspire to increase our involvement in Judaism. If we did one good deed yesterday, let us try to increase and do more today. One step at a time, one day at a time.

At Creation, G‑d made the "two great lights," the sun and the moon. The sun is constant; every day the same fiery ball appears in the sky. But the moon is always going through changes; one day it is full, then it wanes, getting smaller and smaller. Yet even after it seems to have completely disappeared, it renews itself, and grows again.

In the beginning, G‑d said, "Let there be light." This reference is not to physical light. This initial statement is rather the mandate of all of Creation. The ultimate goal and purpose of creation is that the Divine Light shine throughout the world, transforming everything, even darkness itself, so that it too, will shine.

There is a Talmudic statement: "We are day workers." This means more than quitting at sundown. Metaphorically, our task is to spread light rather than to exhaust our energies in taking on the darkness directly and battling it.

Evil and darkness cannot be swept out with a broom. By creating more light, the darkness fades away.

Seeing the Light: Entering a dark room, the man was overwhelmed.

"Don't worry," said his friend. "The darkness hits only at first. Soon your eyes will grow accustomed, and you will hardly notice the darkness."

"My friend," replied the man, "that is the problem. Judaism teaches us to distinguish between light and dark. But by becoming accustomed to the situation, we begin to think of the darkness as light!"

Laser Power: Some people worry that Jewish law "restricts" and stifles their religious inspiration.

On the contrary, the Torah's confines enhance our light, for without any restriction, our initial inspiration can become diffused and dissipate. Like the concentrated laser beam, the Torah's focus restricts the light from going all over the place, intensifying it into a most powerful beam.

We light Shabbat candles before dark, inside our home. By contrast, Chanuka candles are lit only after dark, at the window facing out to the street.

Shabbat candles bring light with-in, but the Chanuka lights go further, also combating the darkness outside.

The Baal Shem Tov was very fond of light. He said: "The Hebrew word for light is 'ohr'-the numerical equivalent of 'raz' (inner secret.) Knowing the inner Torah secrets helps illuminate a person's world."

Although commemorating the rekindling of the Temple's menora which had only seven branches, our Chanuka menora has eight lights.

"Eight" represents the infinite and supernatural, in contrast to the finite and natural. Symbolically, "seven" is associated with the natural world, created in six days and completed with G‑d's rest on the seventh, Shabbat.

The seven-lamp menora illuminated the natural world, but Chanuka goes even further. It is a foretaste and reflection of the era of Moshiach, a higher level that is beyond our worldly limitations.

At the end of the long dark night of exile, right before day, we are tempted to fall asleep. We must therefore strengthen ourselves to be awake and aware for the approach of daybreak of Redemption.