A century ago, there were no electric streetlamps. How would people make their way through the public domain at night? There were kerosene lanterns on every corner whose light shined forth and made going through the streets less threatening. There were lamplighters who would trudge through the night and go from lamp to lamp with a torch, kindling its flame.

Even in the cold and the dark, these lone figures would make their way through the night, leaving a path of light behind them.

We are all lamplighters, charged with the mission of illuminating the world with the light of the Torah and its mitzvos. While this theme is always relevant, at certain times its importance resonates more forcefully than others.

Chanukah is one of those times. As we put our menorahs near the doors or windows of our homes with the intent that they shine light into the darkness, we convey a message to the world: “Darkness is temporary. With a little bit of light it can be banished.”


The Previous Rebbe would tell his chassidim, “We must listen carefully to what the Chanukah candles are saying.” For the light of the Chanukah candles points us toward many important goals for our lives.

Firstly, the Chanukah lights should be kindled after sunset and must burn into the night. Each person has his or her own definition of the metaphor of darkness.

The Chanukah candles teach us not to accept darkness as reality, but instead to kindle light. Moreover, we place the candles at our doorways or in our windows, indicating that we should not remain content with lighting up our own homes. Instead, we must reach out and spread light as far as we possibly can, lighting up the public domain.

Going further: On each night of Chanukah, we add to the number of candles lit on the previous night. Implied is that we can’t sit still and rest on our laurels. Instead, we must increase our endeavors every day to spread light throughout the world. Though we illuminated our environment on the previous night, we cannot remain content, but instead must strive to make a further and greater contribution.

Looking to the Horizon

Chanukah is celebrated for eight days, a number that our Sages associate with the era of the Redemption. What is unique about eight? The natural order is structured in sets of seven: there are seven days in a week; seven years in the agricultural cycle observed in Eretz Yisrael. Eight represents a step above that cycle. In the motif of “eight,” the transcendent oneness of G‑d that surpasses nature’s set of seven becomes revealed.

Though connected with oneness, eight is not one. The idea is not that infinity will be revealed in a manner that obscures entirely the material framework in which we presently live. Instead, 8 is 7+1, i.e., His oneness will permeate seven, the set of nature. We will appreciate how the truth of our own existence is G‑dliness. The transcendent will be enclothed within the framework of our worldly sphere.

This message is illustrated and illuminated by the light of the Chanukah candles. They recall the miraculous burning of the Menorah in the Temple and imbue us with the awareness that the Menorah will soon be kindled again, spreading G‑dly light openly throughout the world.