Chanukah 5781

Holiday #6 (286)

Chanukah 5781

December 10-18

From the Chassidic MastersFrom Ascent QuarterlyFrom the Rebbes of ChabadSome Laws and Customs

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From the Chassidic Masters

Shining Candles

The Chanukah candles are a classic example of holiness. The number of candles grow higher night by night, providing increasingly more light to dispell the darkness and for goodness to excell over evil. The message of Chanukah is that we also are empowered to use the intellectual and emotional powers of our soul at their highest level, to be a candle dispelling darkness. Just as we light the candles to shine outwards, to be seen by others, so also each of us in our lives should also be candles shining outwards, good examples of positive action to everyone in the world. [Chassidic sources]

From the Rebbes of Chabad


"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, as above). Afterwards, they instituted the lighting of the Chanukah candles, which is the same idea as the Torah light.

Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch [Translated by Rabbi Moshe Kravitz for Ascent Quarterly #17]

From Ascent Quarterly

by Rabbi Shaul Leiter

The observance of nearly all the holidays, including Shabbos, is centered around festive meals. The only exception is Chanukah, where by Rabbinical decree, the lighting of the candles is not only the primary ceebration, it is the only celebration. This serves to focus our attention on the miracle of the oil staying lit for 8 days, and not on the military victory over the Greeks. The reason for this is that the Greeks did not seek to kill us, but to make us forget our Judaism (see the paragraph "al hanisim" ["on the miracles"] that is added in the Amidah and in Grace After Meals) and accept their philosophies and approach to life.

What is the difference between the Jewish way and the Greek/western civilization one? Man-made philosophies accept only those ideas that make sense to human intelligence. Anything that cannot be understood by the intellect is out. Therefore, the Greeks accepted, for instance, the existence of G-d, His unity, His first-ness and His eternalness, but they denied G-d's "micro-management" and the Torah commandments, asking what does the Creator care if we eat meat with milk or not. A Jew, on the other hand, believes that G-d is higher than any level of wisdom and knowledge, that no thought can contain the Almighty at all, even the most lofty. Even more, one challenge of our G-d given ability to think is to understand that we and our intellect are limited and to believe and have faith in the basic foundations of the Torah. The miracle of Chanukah is an expression of G-dly wisdom overpowering human intellect.

This is the message of the Chanukah candles. Just as the number of candles increase night by night-more light dispelling the darkness, goodness excelling over evil-so also we are empowered to use our intellect at its maximum potential to be a candle dispelling darkness. Just as we light the candles to shine outwards, to be seen by others, so also each of us in our lives should also be like candles to shine outwards, examples of positive action to others.



1. For the first night (Thurs, Dec. 10, 2020), one light is kindled at the right end of the menorah.

2. On the next night a light is added to the left of the first one and both lights are kindled, and similarly each night until eight lights are kindled on the eighth night.

3. Each night an additional light is kindled--called the shamesh--which is used to light the other ones and then placed above them.

4. The lights are kindled left to right, starting with the newest light.

5. The lights must burn for at least half an hour after dark.

6. If available, olive-oil lights are preferable to wax candles.

7. Before kindling, make sure there is enough oil (or big enough candles) to burn for half an hour (or more if lit before nightfall-see 5).

8. In our times, the menorah is placed:

a. On the outside of the front door, opposite the mezuzah (Jerusalem practice)
b. In a door frame inside the house, opposite the mezuzah (Chassidic practice)
c. In a window facing a public thoroughfare (common practice)
note: in an apartment more than ten meters above the street, practice c. is of questionable validity.

9. The lights should be in an even row -no curves, no height variations. They should be well-spaced so their flames do not appear merged (and if candles, that they do not melt each other).

10. On the first night, immediately before kindling, all three blessings (found in every prayerbook) are said.

11. On the subsequent nights, only the first two blessings are said.

12. No use should be made of the lights shed by the Chanukah candles, such as reading by their light.

13. For the Friday night of Chanukah, the lights must be kindled before sunset and preferably before the Shabbat candles are lit. Additional oil (or larger candles) should be provided to ensure that they can burn until half an hour after nightfall.


Last year's Chanukah page


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