Contact Us
The power of Chanukah is drawn from a deep internal spiritual source

Transformation from Below

Transformation from Below

 Email
Transformation from Below
The power of Chanukah is drawn from a deep internal spiritual source

It is well known that the Chanukah lights commemorate the miracle that occurred in the Holy Temple, but isn't it interesting to note the variation in the number of candles, the time they are lit and the positioning of the menorah in our homes compared to the Menorah that was in the Temple?

The Menorah in the Holy Temple contained seven lights, was located inside on the South wall, and was lit an hour and a quarter before sunset. In honor of Chanukah, we light eight candles outside the home on the left side after sunset.

How do we account for these differences? Why, for example, do we light Chanukah candles outside, in the public domain? The common reason given is that we are obligated to publicize the miracle of Chanukah. But then why are we not required also to read the Scroll of Esther in public to publicize the miracle of Purim? Concealment is represented by the left side and the aspect of gevura

The mitzva of lighting Chanukah candles is unique because its purpose is to publicize the miraculous victory over the Greeks, akin to creating light within the darkness. This is the reason we don't kindle the candles until after sunset, the nighttime.

The Greeks' plan was to alienate the Jewish people from Torah and mitzvot. Their purpose was expressed in the defilement of the oil in the Holy Temple, an action which intensified the darkness and gave vitality to the forces of evil. The reason we light candles on the left side is to represent this time when G‑dliness was concealed; concealment is represented by the left side and the aspect of gevura.

We light eight candles because the number eight is above the natural chain of levels, and the self-sacrifice associated with the miracle of Chanukah, draws down light from above these levels. On Chanukah, vitality emerges from below to above because of self-sacrifice, and this light brings vitality from above to below, replacing the darkness with light. Chanukah… brings light down from above the chain of levels through self-sacrifice…

This is another difference between the light in the Holy Temple and the Chanukah lights. The light descended into the Holy Temple according to the chain of levels, unlike the light of Chanukah, which brings light down from above the chain of levels through self-sacrifice. The purpose of the light of the Holy Temple is not to dispel the darkness, because the darkness opposes the light, and therefore, the Menorah was placed inside the Holy of Holies and not outside. The Chanukah light, having as its source a place higher than the natural chain of levels, dispels the darkness, because the darkness is not able to compete with it, and the candles are placed outside for this purpose.

Self-sacrifice is also associated with the miracle of Purim when the entire Jewish People maintained their Judaism at supreme risk to their lives. How can Chanukah bring down a light beyond levels through self-sacrifice when only a few people, primarily Matthias and his sons sacrificed their lives? The explanation is that the light of Chanukah is connected with the Holy Temple, which brought down light from a level that transcended darkness.

Compared to the light in the world, the light of the Holy Temple was unlimited. King Solomon was able to rule as a king of peace, unopposed by any nation, because he brought G‑dly energy from a place above levels through the Holy Temple, which, through revealed light, elevated material things to their sources in the spiritual world. How can we say that the light of Chanukah and the light of the Holy Temple are both unlimited? Compared to the light in the world, the light of the Holy Temple was unlimited, and compared to the light of the Holy Temple, the light of Chanukah is beyond levels.

But if the light of Chanukah comes from an unlimited place and has such power, why do we specifically need to light them in the dark? Isn't their function greater than merely to replace the darkness? A chasid is able to bring the blessing from a level beyond comprehension…

We can understand the source of the Chanukah light by analyzing the verse from Psalms: "All Your works will give thanks to You, and Your pious will bless You". The essence of this verse is that a blessing is drawn from a level that is higher than comprehension, and since the one who is giving the blessing is in awe and cannot explain what he perceives, he can only thank G‑d. A chasid is able to bring the blessing from a level beyond comprehension.

A blessing is distinct from prayer, because the person giving the blessing is on a higher level than the blessing itself, since it is like a command and deals with material things that already exist. The blessing brings holy energy from above to below. Prayer is on the level that is above the person who is praying, and reaches from below to above to bring a new will from the Infinite Light Blessed be He. In the service of a chasid, a righteous disciple, there is the advantage of both blessing and prayer. Like the person who is praying, the chasid is able to bring holy energy from a level that is higher than himself. Like one giving a blessing, a chasid can reach a place beyond understanding and influence what already exists. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, for instance, could bring down rain through his prayers even at times when G‑d decreed that there would be no rain. The prayers of a chasid not only bring down a new will from G‑d, but have the power to transform this will.

The Zohar discusses the differences between the tzadik and the chasid and states that the chasid is on a higher level than the tzadik. In what way is a chasid higher than a tzadik? Both influence Divine Will through their prayers. The tzadik is able to request that G‑d nullify decrees. The chasid, however, whose prayer is from a higher level than thought, on the level of blessing and thanks, can actually demand an alteration in Divine Will, rather than merely requesting the removal of a negative decree. The inner aspect of Atik is represented by righteousness that is above wealth, above the material world…

How does the chasid acquire this influence? The chasid does chesed (kindnesses) for G‑d; all of his service is for the sake of Heaven. This service draws vitality from the inner levels of Atik, levels which transcend Creation. The service of the tzadik comes from Arich Anpin in the external aspect of keter. The word "tzadik" is related to "tzedaka", providing the needy with material things. Similarly, the level of "Arich Anpin" is the source of material things and living creatures. Arich Anpin is represented by wealth above malchut drawn through malchut. The inner aspect of Atik is represented by righteousness that is above wealth, above the material world. This is the reason we can say rightly that the chasid performs chesed for G‑d; his chesed, unlike tzedaka, has nothing to do with wealth or poverty, but is a selfless service for G‑d, existing beyond his level of comprehension, and, as a result, he can offer only thanks. That the candles do not merely replace the darkness, but transform the darkness into light…

The level of Arich Anpin and the service of a tzadik affects the will of G‑d. The level of Atik and the service of a chasid affects the pleasure of G‑d. The will is more external and less a part of something than pleasure. For example, a patient's limbs can be moved by a doctor even if the movement is not pleasant for him. The limbs are moved according to the will of the doctor, and this will is external to the limbs. But if someone wants to move his limbs and gets pleasure from doing so, this movement is initiated from within the limb itself. The chasid can effect a change in nature because his service is associated with Divine Pleasure, which is the source for the vitality of the world. The service of the chasid can go beyond the service of a tzadik; the tzadik is able to influence G‑d to eliminate a negative decree because he is connected to the external level of keter, associated with Divine Will. But since the chasid's source is from the internal level of Atik, associated with Divine Pleasure and vitality, he can change a negative decree into a blessing.

The miracle of Chanukah is connected with the service of the chasid. The miracle was not merely that a negative decree was erased, but that a negative event (i.e. that there was only one cruse of oil that was not defiled) was transformed into a blessing (i.e. that the oil burned for eight days).The reason we light the candles in the dark in the public domain is to show that the candles do not merely replace the darkness, but transform the darkness into light. The light of Chanukah is from a source beyond all levels, where darkness cannot compete with it. Even though the self-sacrifice of Chanukah was shown by only a few people, Matthias and his sons, the apparent disadvantage of their limited numbers was transformed into a blessing and a miracle beyond nature, in that they were able to defeat a mighty nation. The Chanukah lights remind us that devoted service to G‑d can bring miracles and light which transform the world.

[From Sefer Maamarim Melukat, vol. 6]

Yehoshua Metzinger of Nahariya, a former counselor at Ascent, has since married and now lives in Jerusalem.
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Start a Discussion
1000 characters remaining
Related Topics

The larger, bold text is the direct translation of the classic text source.

The smaller, plain text is the explanation of the translator/editor.
Text with broken underline will provide a popup explanation when rolled over with a mouse.