The Rambam states at the conclusion of the Lawsof Chanukah: “If a person can afford either “Shabbos lights”(“ner beiso”) or Chanukah lights (“ner Chanukah”), but not both, then “Shabbos lights” take precedence, because they lead to shalom bayis, domestic harmony — for even the Divine Name is erased in order to bring peace between husband and wife. Great1 is peace; the entire Torah was given in order to bring peace into the world....”

Why does the Rambam go into a lengthy exposition about the greatness of peace in the laws of Chanukah? Shouldn’t he have stated this in Hilchos Deos, where such concepts are discussed? Evidently, there is a relationship between the themes of Chanukah and peace and tranquility. What is the connection between the two?

This relationship between Chanukah and peace and tranquility will be understood by prefacing the following. Generally speaking, the service of Torah and mitzvos finds expression through positive and negative commandments — performing positive actions and refraining from negative acts.

In general, this is also the fundamental difference in character between Shabbos and Chanukah. Shabbos’ primary theme is positive, while the principal aspect of Chanukah is of a negative nature, as shall presently be explained.

The Rambam writes:2 “It is a positive command to rest on Shabbos from labor, as the verse states: ‘On the seventh day you shall rest.’” Although most laws of Shabbos come under the heading of negative commands, nevertheless, the essential aspect of Shabbos is the positive aspect of rest and tranquility.3 This is similar to the beginning of creation, when after the Six Days of Creation, “the world was [still] lacking tranquility; when Shabbos arrived, tranquility arrived.”4

Conversely, the main aspect of Chanukah is negative. The Rambam therefore describes5 the festival of Chanukah in the following manner: “They issued decrees ... abolished their religion, and prevented them from occupying themselves in Torah and mitzvos ... they oppressed them ... and the sons of the Hasmoneans vanquished them ... and destroyed them.” All the above is a negative theme — nullifying the decrees and vanquishing those who opposed Torah and mitzvos.

Subsequently,this led to the positive aspects of “Joy and [the recitation of] Hallel; Chanukah lights are lit, etc.” Though these actions are indeed positive, the underlying factor and the main aspect of Chanukah is negative — vanquishing the enemy.

The aspects of ner beiso and ner Chanukahwill be understood accordingly: “Shabbos lights,” like Shabbos as a whole, is a positive aspect — delighting in and honoring Shabbos. However, since “Shabbos lights,” by their very nature, provide light, as a matter of course they accomplish the negation of “darkness” as well — there will be no disharmony, people will not sit in the dark, or stumble over unseen objects. As such “Shabbos lights” are unlike ner Chanukah, where one may not derive benefit from their illumination.

In contrast, although the purpose of ner Chanukah is to “demonstrate and reveal the miracle”6 within the world — truly a positive theme — nevertheless, the events leading to ner Chanukah were meant to negate evil.

Thus, the primary concept of Chanukah — the negation of evil and strife — consists of preventing the state of conflict and discord — in other words, to be at peace.

As a result, when the question arises as to which takes precedence, ner beiso or ner Chanukah, Chanukah itself proclaims that “Shabbos lights” take precedence, for it is they that bring about actual peace within the household.

After stating that “Shabbos lights” take precedence over “Chanukah lights,” the Rambam goes on to explain that this concept that peace — negating the adversary — overwhelms and takes precedence over the positive aspect of bringing in additional light and holiness, is not limited to Chanukah. Rather, peace is so fundamental and all-encompassing that it is the purpose of the entire Torah.

This is gleaned from the fact that “even the Divine Name is erased in order to bring peace between husband and wife.” The greatest and most profound degree of holiness is drawn down into this world when G‑d’s “essential, explicit and singular”7 Divine Name is written with ink on parchment. Nevertheless, this most sacred name is written with the specific intent of subsequently erasing it, all in order to bring peace between husband and wife.

This informs us that the entire purpose of the positive aspect of drawing down additional holiness within the world — writing the Divine Name — is all for the sake of peace, that there not be strife between husband and wife, i.e., that the negative aspect of strife be negated.

And this is so, says the Rambam, with regard to the entire Torah: “The entire Torah was given in order to bring peace into the world.” This is to say, that even the positive commands of Torah have as their main purpose “bringing peace into the world,” by negating those worldly matters that oppose holiness. For only thereby8 do we succeed in transforming a negative world into a true and positive dwelling for G‑d.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, pp. 372-379.