A message before Chanukah from Rabbi Shohama Wiener, ALEPH’s Rosh Hashpa’ah (Head of Spiritual Direction)
One of the core teachings about Chanukah is that the candles are not to be used for any purpose other than to be seen. (M. Sofrim 20:6; Shulchan Aruch O.C. 673:1, citing B.T. Shabbat 22a). Before electricity, candles were a prime source of light for working, for reading, for any kind of tasks needing to be done. Today candles are ornaments or provide atmosphere. We don’t need them the way that we used to. How, then, might we understand the injunction against “using” the candles’ light today?
Perhaps it is to make them a spiritual focus. Concentrating on watching the Chanukah candle lights shimmer is a way to take in light in a time of darkness, and a reminder that always we must take in spiritual light in order to give light—that is, to transmit light through us from its truest source. If we do this spiritual practice and fill with light, then naturally we will transmit that light to others. That’s what light does – it flows from the holy to us (Prov.20:27 [“the Divine candle is [in] the human soul”), and then between us – much as one candle can lift another to flame (B.T. Pesachim 7b).
To fully receive the lights of Chanukah, we must prepare. As the holiday approaches, let us look at our lives from the view of Spirit—even better, as Reb Zalman z”l taught, if we have a friend, a spirit buddy or a mashpia (spiritual guide) to help us see where we might have blockages to receiving.
Do we need to tend more to our physical needs, or cry out to God, meditate for balance, or find more moments of appreciation and exaltation? The sparks of holy light reside within us all, and together we can make them into glowing orbs that illumine the dark.
May all of us receive the holy light and the companionship we need to illuminate the darkness of this season, that we may give our light and caring to others out of our abundance.
Chag Urim Sameach, Happy Chanukah!