"A Small Candle; A Lot of Light"

by Moshe Kravetz

[Extracted and translated from a discourse by Rabbi Sholom Dovber of Lubavitch;
first appeared in Ascent Quarterly #17]


"For the mitzvah is a candle and the Torah is light..." [Proverbs 6:23]. Just as physical light is generated by a candle, the light of Torah is generated by a mitzvah candle. Without the candle of mitzvot to dispel the darkness there can be no light of Torah! Through the mitzvah candle we attain the Torah light, which is the inner light of the Essence of G-d - the source of light that has to shine below in order to transform the spiritual darkness of this world into light.

The Greeks defiled all the oil in the Temple chambers. Wisdom is compared to oil. The Greeks wanted to contaminate the wisdom of the Torah (Divine wisdom) with their intellectual wisdom. The positive wisdom of the Torah brings about a level of self-nullification in the one who learns it that enables him to fulfill Torah and mitzvot and generally to be a good person. The negative wisdom of the Greeks brings the one who learns it to feel himself to be a separate existence. He does whatever he wants to do, rather than what G-d expects of him. The Greeks wanted to neutralize the positive wisdom, the True Reality, with the negative wisdom, the perceived reality. They wanted to make the Jews forget that the Torah is G-d's Torah, and to deny G-d's existence by not allowing the Jews to do the chukim [statutes], those mitzvot decreed by the Torah which cannot be understood (and rationally justified) by human intelligence.

The Chashmonaim [Maccabees] overpowered and defeated the Greeks through their complete devotion to G-d, to the extent that they gave up their lives (their existence) to reveal G-d's existence (the idea of the mitzvah candle). Afterwards, they instituted the lighting of the Chanukah candles, which is the same idea as the Torah light.

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