The Rambam rules1 that if a person has only enough money to buy either Chanukah lights or Shabbos lights, he should purchase Shabbos lights, since their purpose is shalom bayis; to instill peace in the household. The Rambam concludes: “Great is the attribute of peace, for the entire Torah was given in order to imbue the world with peace.”

Why does the Rambam first write about the importance of peace in the laws of Chanukah? Couldn’t he have written about it in earlier sections of his work, where the theme of peace is apparently more relevant (such as in Hilchos Deos)? Moreover, this ruling — that Shabbos lights take precedence over Chanukah lights — should seemingly have been included in the Shabbos laws.

The difference between the lights in the Beis HaMikdash and the Chanukah lights lies in the fact that the Beis HaMikdash lights were lit indoors during daylight hours. In contrast, the Chanukah lights are lit after sunset, “on the outside entrance of a person’s house.”

In a spiritual context, this means that the Beis HaMikdash lights were kindled in a place where G‑dliness was revealed, a place not subject to concealment. The novel aspect of the Chanukah lights is that they have the ability to nullify evil and illuminate the “outside,” even during the darkest moments of exile.

In this sense the Chanukah lights are even loftier than the lights of the Beis HaMikdash,2 for with the destruction of the Holy Temple, the kindling of the Beis HaMikdash lights ceased. However, “The kindling of the Chanukah lights will never cease,”3 blazing during and illuminating even the darkest and most dismal periods of exile.

This is similar to the superiority of baalei teshuvah (penitents) over tzaddikim (wholly righteous individuals). Tzaddikim have no connection at all to evil. Baalei teshuvah, on the other hand, are able through their repentance to even transform sins into good deeds, of transmuting evil into good.

Although there is superior merit in the service of baalei teshuvah — since they attain a higher level than the service of tzaddikimtzaddikim nevertheless possess a quality that baalei teshuvah lack, in that they have absolutely no association with evil — their spiritual service revolves entirely around goodness. As a result, the light of G‑dliness is more readily revealed within them.

That is why the most complete and comprehensive kind of spiritual service involves joining together these two forms of service. This will be fully accomplished with the arrival of Mashiach, for “Mashiach will bring even tzaddikim to repentance.”4

This combination of the service of tzaddikim with that of baalei teshuvah is also found to some degree in the Chanukah lights: a) they possess the ability to illuminate the gloom of exile; and b) they also stem from and are linked directly to the lights kindled in the Beis HaMikdash —being established in commemoration of the miracle that transpired with the menorah.

The reason the Rambam mentions the greatness of peace specifically in the Laws of Chanukah will be understood accordingly:

Peace entails the unification of two opposing forces.5 There are many degrees and aspects of good and evil, holy and unholy that combat each other. With regard to the matter at hand, peace refers to the tranquility and unification of all aspects in a domicile in order that they all be directed toward a common goal — having G‑d dwell in the house.

This is symbolized by Chanukah, for as mentioned above, Chanukah represents the service of repentance, wherein the darkness of the outside itself is illuminated by G‑dliness. As a result, it toobecomes capable of being absorbed within G‑dliness. Chanukah also represents the union of both kinds of service, that of tzaddikim and baalei teshuvah.

But when one lacks the strength to illuminate both his home and the darkness found outside — i.e., “he does not have enough ‘money’ to purchase both Shabbos lights and Chanukah lights” — illuminating one’s own home comes first.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, pp. 810-813.