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Share the Lights

Friday, 15 December, 2017 - 7:29 am

 "Hanukah Is... The Festival of Lights... Instead of one day of presents, we get eight crazy nights..gin and tonica... harmonica... marijuanaka" - Adam Sandler, Hannukah Song 1996

Needless to say, while my holy Jewish brother, Reb Adam, put it cutely, I don't know if he quite captured the essence of the holiday.

We've all heard the story a hundred time about the victory of the Jews over the Assyrian Greeks, and the miracle of the oil, that lasted eight days instead of one. The Holiday is celebrated by reciting special prayers, public menorah lightings, sharing the light and the message of the holiday. And, of course, the lighting the menorah in our homes, adding a candle each night.

This is all fine and nice, BUT THERE IS MORE!
(Everyone has seen those late night commercials, selling some item that you likely don't need, but they try to lure you in by "BUT THERE'S MORE, IF YOU ORDER IN THE NEXT 10 MINUTES, WE WILL DOUBLE YOUR ORDER FOR FREE!" I'd like to try that here as well, with one critical exception. Unlike those late night products, where their utility is debatable, this theme, that I am offering, "BUT THERE IS MORE" to the story of Chanukah, is useful and needed by all!)

Typically, light is used for what you are doing. You flip switch in your bedroom, you are doing so because YOU need light. You put a floodlight in your backyard, so YOU can play basketball after dark. You put on your flashlight, to brighten dark spaces, that the larger light isn't shining on, so that YOU can tighten that elusive screw. 
Imagine a word, where the reason you created light, was for everyone else but you?

Remember the old JFK line, "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?" I propose, that a deeper message of Chanukah is, ask not what your lights will do for you, but what your lights will do for others.

There is a curious feature about the menorah that was lit in the temple and that the light that it produced. In the days of old, before double pane glass windows existed, windows worked a bit differently. You had very thick walls of your house, and you had the narrow side exposed to the outside, and the wider side on the inside of the house. (Like a funnel, or an inverted bull horn.)
Thus, you limited your exposure to intruders, but maximized on the amount of light you took into your home. The windows of the holy Temple were made opposite. Narrow side on the inside, and wider side on the outside.

Our sages teach us that this was to convey, that the Temple was lighting up the world, not vice versa. The light, spirituality and holiness of the Temple was for brightening up the dark world outside.

This Chanukah, perhaps, in addition to doing our personal menorah lightings and mandatory latke eating at home, as well as our publicizing of the miracle by attending public menorah lightings, lets attempt to emulate the lights of the Temple, whoselights we are celebrating anyway, and try to not selfishly light our own lives, but try to brighten the lights of overs.

There is a curious law regarding the Menorah, it says, Ein lanureshus lehishtamesh behein, Ela li'rosam bilvad... it is forbidden to use the lights of the menorah, only to gaze upon them.

Now, if I can't use them, then what good does gazing upon them do? If I could read a book by its radiance then fine. But to simply look at it? What is that worth?

Given the above, it now makes sense. Just looking at the light is uplifting. There is something magical about flames that draws us to simply stare at them. If it does that for us, it can do that for others as well. We simply need to #sharethelights.

If we do that, well then, it is really isn't eight crazy nights, but eight amazing nights...

Have a Wonderful Shabbos
Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman

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