This afternoon, Jews worldwide will continue to celebrate Chanukah, with the lighting of the 6th candle of Chanukah, alongside the lighting of the Shabbat candles that are lit each and every Friday.
here’s an interesting question: what if we discover, at the last minute, that
we only have one candle in our home? Should we use it to light the Shabbat
candle or the Chanukah one? Interestingly, Jewish law states that, although
Chanukah candles are ‘highly important’, we should designate this single candle
as a Shabbat candle, and not a Chanukah one.
The reason is moving. In the words of Maimonides: “The Shabbat light takes precedence because it symbolizes peace in the home. And our responsibility toward creating peace in the confines of our home is greater than our responsibility toward creating peace in the world.”
Maimonides’ words ring true, especially in our day and age, in which many are so passionate to “create peace in the world,” that they forget to “create peace in the confines of their own homes.” They will be the first ones to fight against bigotry, sexism, and racism, and G-d bless them for that. But are they willing to invest just as much energy toward fighting against their bad tempers, and their animalistic inclinations? Can they exercise self-control, not just other-control? Can they ensure that their light shines inward, not just outward?
My dear mentor, world-renowned scholar – Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, once advised me, so poignantly: “Know that the greatest obstacle to me, Adin, is me. The greatest obstacle to you, Pinny, is you. But once you learn to master yourself, you will not have any problem in mastering the entire world.”
Indeed; Judaism has forever placed the home above the battlefield, family harmony above military victories, and the purity of innocent children above the might of decorated army-commanders.
Don’t get me wrong: it is important, even vital, to better our world, each in our own way. Doing a Mitzvah for the other, not just for the self, and involving ourselves in “Tikun Olam projects” and other forms of social-aid initiatives are essential to the peace and success of our society. But we also ought to remember that our light needs to shine inward, not just outward, and that “our responsibility toward creating peace in the confines of our home is greater than our responsibility toward creating peace in the world.”
And so, as we continue to kindle our lights of Chanukah toward the public streets of our neighborhoods and cities, let us not forget to also illuminate our own homes too with the fire of our souls. Let us use these festive times, to connect and re-connect to the members of our household, with peace, harmony, and unconditional love.
Our unobstructed light, emanating from within, will then shine forth, bright and far, to eternity.