Eight Days


Why is Chanukah eight days?

Because seven is the number of the natural world. Eight transcends nature.

But how can a human being transcend nature?

By lighting one more natural light today than yesterday for seven natural days.

Chanukah Business


Why do we go to work on Chanukah? 

On other Jewish holidays, work is not permitted. Because the light of those days is too pure to enter the mundane world. To be part of such a holy day, we must temporarily leave that world behind.

But on Chanukah there shines a far more intense light, the light of the six days of creation that was hidden for the World To Come. A light through which all mysteries are revealed, all questions answered.

A light so powerful, it can enter our everyday world of work and business, and encompass everything we do. And make that shine as well.

On Chanukah, there shines a light that reveals the divine within everything, everywhere.

Returning Light


In creating the whole of existence, G‑d made forces that reveal Him and forces that oppose Him—He made light and He made darkness.

One who does good brings in more light. One who fails, feeds the darkness.

But the one who fails and then returns transcends that entire scheme. He reaches out directly to the Essential Creator. Beyond darkness and light.

And so, his darkness becomes light.

Be a Lamp


“The human soul is a divine lamp.” (Proverbs 20:27)

The act of lighting the Chanukah menorah contains the entire purpose of every human being.

Because every human soul entered this world for one reason alone: To be a lamp. To bring light wherever there is darkness.

When you give people faith in themselves, in their future, in the sanctity of their own souls, you have not only brought them light—you have made them into human lamps.

You have given them their purpose.

Transformation


When light pushes away the darkness, eventually another darkness shall come.

When the darkness itself is transformed into light, it is a light that no darkness can oppose.

Staying Above


Never forget that your true place is a place of light. Even when you find yourself in the midst of darkness and sorrow, know that this is not your home.

Where is your home? Where does your true self live?

It lives absorbed within the very origin of light. From there, a glimmer of itself escapes and splashes below.

It takes only that glimmer to transform the darkness, that darkness too should shine.

Shine Like a Child


On Chanukah we are all children. We all grow brighter and yet brighter each day.

In truth, it takes a certain rebelliousness to always continue to grow.

But this rebelliousness, in a positive way, can also be learned from the children of our times.

Today, the youth embarrass their elders with their enthusiasm for a mitzvah.

You too, every day, must rebel against who you were yesterday.

Shabbat Chanukah, 5730.​

Powerful Beauty


Never underestimate the power of a simple, pure deed done from the heart.

The world is not changed by men who move mountains, nor by those who lead the revolutions, nor by those whose purse strings tie up the world.

Dictators are deposed, oppression is dissolved, entire nations are transformed by a few precious acts of beauty performed by a handful of unknown soldiers.

As Maimonides wrote in his code of law, “Each person must see himself as though the entire world were held in balance and with a single deed he could tip the scales.”

One Small Light

There are times when you feel the struggle is too overwhelming, that you’re getting nowhere. Because every time you surface, a relentless beast inside just pulls you back down again.

But the truth is that as long as you can awaken the light and wisdom of your soul, the beast will stay at bay.

That is simply the nature of things. Just as with physical light, it takes only a small amount of light to push away much darkness, so with the wisdom of the soul—as long as you keep it shining, the stubborn idiocy of that inner beast will leave you alone.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Tanya, chapter 12.

Counting Up


Why do we count up on Chanukah? Why not count down?

Because the foolish mistakes we make in life all fade and disappear.

But the light of our mitzvahs accumulates, shining each day more and more.

The Most Beautiful Way


On Chanukah, you could get by lighting one candle each day for the entire household.

You could do better and have everyone in the household light one candle each day.

But the best, most beautiful way to do the mitzvah of Chanukah is to light one more candle each day than you lit the day before.

And this is one mitzvah that the entire Jewish world decided to do in the most beautiful way.

Because, when it’s light outside, it’s okay to just do what’s needed.

But when it’s dark and cold, we’ve all got to do our very best.

Igrot Melech, vol. 1, pg. 262 (footnote).

Infinite Light


A strong light is hostile to the eyes. An intense light will burn and destroy. An immense body of light will vaporize anything, turning molecules to atoms, atoms to particles, particles to energy.

An infinite light, however, knows no bounds. It can go anywhere and enter any place. Nothing can say to infinity, “I cannot bear you! You are too powerful for me!”—for, if so, that would be a limitation on the infinite.

That is the name the Kabbalists call G‑d—the Infinite Light. No place is too small, no moment too insignificant, for the Infinite Light to belong.

Chanukah Forever


Our world today is built upon the foundations of two similar cultures: the Jewish and the Greek. Both treasured the world of ideas.

Yet, to this day, they represent two worldviews, still locked in battle.

To this day, we struggle: Does human dignity mean that our minds are the measure of all things?

Or does it mean to be in the divine image, inextricably bound up with the Infinite that lies beyond the mind?

The Greeks reached the pinnacle of intellect at their time. Their ideal was a world built upon the human mind.

But the Jewish people had experienced a deeper reality, indescribable and inexplicable. They understood that a world built on human reason alone could not stand.

The Greek conquerors rose, fell and vanished. The Jewish people still stand strong.

And so, we light candles on Chanukah. Not light to see by. Not light for any use at all. Pure light.

Light that is forever.

The Last War


Some people are waiting for a final, apocalyptic war.

But the final war is fought
not on battlefields,
nor at sea,
nor in the skies above.

Neither is it a war between leaders or nations.

The final war is fought in the heart of each human being,
with the armies of his or her deeds in this world.

And with a simple decision:
Am I here to be swallowed alive into the meaningless confusion?
Or am I here to shine light?

The final war is the battle of Chanukah
and the miracle of light.