1. In connection with Chanukah candles, our Sages relate, “One who regularly [lights] candles will have sons who are Torah scholars.” Rashi associates this statement with the verse, “For a mitzvah is a lamp and Torah is light,” explaining that the ‘lamp’ of the mitzvah of Shabbos and Chanukah candles brings the ‘light’ of Torah.”

The commentaries question what is the rationale that associates Chanukah candles with sons who are Torah scholars. Although Rashi cites a prooftext from the Tanach, that prooftext merely indicates that a connection exists, it does not explain that connection. Furthermore, the association with the prooftext is seemingly problematic. How is it possible to say that the “lamp of mitzvah” will bring the “light of Torah,” when a lamp is less powerful than light?1

A mitzvah is like a lone and single light, limited in its scope. In contrast, the Torah is unlimited.2 Furthermore, “study is great because it brings to deed.” Thus, it is difficult to understand: Why does Rashi explain that the “lamp of mitzvah” leads to the light of Torah. If anything, the opposite is true, the light of Torah brings one to the mitzvos.3

There is another difficulty with Rashi’s statement: On the surface, the phrase, “a mitzvah is a lamp” relates to all the mitzvos. Why does Rashi limit it to the Chanukah and Shabbos candles?

These difficulties can be resolved through a deeper understanding of the mitzvah of Chanukah candles. Although, on an apparent level, the miracle of the military defeat of the Greeks was a greater miracle, our Sages associated the commemoration of the Chanukah with the kindling of candles to emphasize how the essence of the war and the Jews’ victory was spiritual. The Greeks sought to wipe out, not the Jews as a people, but rather, the Jew’s observance of Torah and mitzvos, “to make [the Jews] forget Your Torah and make them violate the decrees of Your will.”

Similarly, the Jews’ victory reflects the victory of “the lamp of mitzvah” and “the light of Torah” as they are reinforced by a commitment of mesirus nefesh. Thus, since the Chanukah candles represent a renewal — and an enhancement — of the commitment to Torah and mitzvos as a whole, through the lamp of this mitzvah comes, “the light of Torah,” sons who study Torah. This “light of Torah” leads to the fulfillment of all the mitzvos for “study is great because it leads to deed.”

Further explanation is, however, required. Ultimately, any mitzvah, even a mitzvah which — like Chanukah candles — relates to Torah and mitzvos in their totality, is merely a “lamp” which is limited when compared to “the light of Torah.” In particular, this limitation is seen with regard to the mitzvah of Chanukah candles which are associated with a specific time, the eight days of Chanukah, and within those days, with a limited time in which they are required to burn. If so, how is it possible for a limited mitzvah of this nature to bring about “the light of Torah,” sons who are Torah scholars.

This difficulty can, however, be resolved by a comparison between the Chanukah candles and the candles lit in the Menorah of the Beis HaMikdash. In regard to the kindling of the Menorah, the Torah commands us to “keep the lamp burning continuously.” Although the mitzvah was for the Menorah to burn only at night, “from the evening until the morning,”4 since it was lit each afternoon, it can be considered as “burning continuously.”

We see a similar concept in regard to the korban tomid (the daily sacrifice offered each morning and afternoon). Literally, this phrase means “a continuous offering.” In this instance as well, since the offering was always brought in the morning and the evening, it could be considered “continuous.”

There is, however, a deeper dimension to the use of this term. The implication is that since these mitzvos are always fulfilled at the required time, their influence is continuous, having an effect throughout the entire day.5

There are other examples of this principle: When one wears a garment that requires tzitzis, the obligation to fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzis applies throughout the entire day. The mitzvah is fulfilled for the entire day by donning a garment and reciting the blessing at one particular time and then one continues to wear the garment throughout the day.

A second example: We are obligated to give tzedakah continuously throughout the day, whenever we meet a poor person (even when we meet the same poor person several times a day). Nevertheless, we find that — to help the poor people — our Sages established certain times for tzedakah to be given.

A more inclusive example: We are obligated to study Torah every moment of the day and night. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of the Jews fulfill this mitzvah by studying at fixed times throughout the day. Only unique individuals like Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his colleagues are on the level of Torasom Umanosom (“Torah study is their livelihood”) and thus, study Torah the entire day. Most people fulfill the charge, “This Torah shall not depart from your mouths” by studying “a portion in the morning and a portion in the evening.”6

These examples reflect that although the observance of these mitzvos is limited to a specific time, when they are fulfilled at that time, the influence of that mitzvah continues throughout a greater period. The same concept can apply in regard to the entire year; for example, although the mitzvah of dwelling in a sukkah is observed for merely a short period, seven days, its influence continues throughout the year.7

The same applies in regard to Chanukah candles. They — like the candles of the Beis HaMikdash with which they are associated — are “a constant lamp.” Furthermore, the Chanukah candles possess an advantage over the candles of the Beis HaMikdash for as the Ramban explains, “the Chanukah candles will never be nullified and are fulfilled at present even while we are in exile.” In contrast, the fulfillment of the mitzvah of lighting the candles of the Beis HaMikdash was nullified with the destruction of that structure.

Thus, although the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles is associated with a limited time — eight days — and also, a limited time of day — the half hour when the candles must burn, their influence continues throughout the entire eight days of Chanukah, throughout the entire year, and indeed, throughout the entire continuum of time.

This concept itself requires explanation: Why should a mitzvah which is limited in the times (and places) when it must be fulfilled have an influence which is unlimited?8

This difficulty can be resolved within the context of a larger scope: Each Jew’s soul, even as it is enclothed in the body, is an “actual part of G‑d from above.” Just as G‑d Himself is unlimited, “the actual part of G‑d” enclothed within the body is also unlimited.9 Therefore, it is difficult to understand: How can a Jew be asked to serve G‑d in a limited manner?10

The explanation of this concept is as follows: A Jew’s service of G‑d is by nature unlimited. We should serve G‑d with every aspect of our being, in every situation in which we are found. Nevertheless, since we live within a world of limitation, our service of G‑d, i.e., performance of mitzvos, also takes on the limits of the world at large. This, however, applies only to the actual performance of the mitzvos, the bond with G‑d established through the performance of the mitzvos is above all limitation.11

The unlimited dimension of the mitzvos is expressed, not only by the fulfillment of all the mitzvos together, but rather, by the fulfillment of each individual mitzvah. Therefore, “a person who is in the midst of fulfilling one mitzvah is not obligated to fulfill all the other mitzvos” and, indeed, is considered to have fulfilled the other mitzvos as well. This is because G‑d’s will is expressed in each mitzvah, not as a particular element of a general category, but rather as an expression of the essence which connects one to His essential will as it exists above all limitations.

The infinite dimension of the mitzvos is further enhanced when a Jew fulfills the mitzvah as an expression of his unlimited desire to cling to G‑d, to love Him, “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”12 Thus, a Jew’s soul which is “a lamp of G‑d” is unlimited and it finds expression in the continuous performance of mitzvos whose inner dimension is unlimited.

The limitations of the actual performance of the mitzvah do not confine the unlimited potential of the Jewish soul. From this, we can infer that the influence generated by a mitzvah is also unbounded and therefore, continues even after the actual performance of the mitzvah has ceased.

Nevertheless, the unlimited dimension that exists within the performance of the mitzvos is not revealed on the limited plane of material existence. This is the uniqueness of the Chanukah candles. They reveal the continuous influence and unbounded potential of the mitzvos in an openly perceivable manner.

This is reflected in the perceivable light produced by the Chanukah candles which reveal in a manifest way how the performance of mitzvos contributes light to the Jewish home. Light, even light in this material world, is related to — and representative of — G‑d’s infinite light. This is expressed in the fact that one can continue lighting one candle from another ad infinitum.

Furthermore, each night of Chanukah, we add another candle, showing how we are constantly adding light, transcending even the limitations of holiness.13 In addition, the Chanukah candles are placed, “at the outside of the entrance to one’s home,” indicating how the light of holiness should not remained contained within one’s home and family, but should shine into the world at large. This shows the unbounded nature of the light of the Chanukah candles, and reflects how they extend beyond the limits of holiness.14 This is further emphasized by the fact that they are lit at night and shine into the darkness, indicating how the light of holiness shines into the darkness of the world.

The unlimited nature of the Chanukah lights is further emphasized by the fact that eight candles are lit15 (in contrast to the seven lit in the Beis HaMikdash). Seven represents a complete cycle of the natural world. Eight, in contrast, represents a step above that order. Since the Chanukah candles reflect an unlimited potential, they have the power to draw down the light of holiness into the darkness of the world, into the public domain, the area “at the outside of the entrance to one’s home.”

The potential for the Chanukah candles to have an unlimited effect stems from the fact that the miracle of Chanukah came as a result of the Jews’ mesirus nefesh, their willingness to give themselves over to holiness without reservation. This commitment made it possible for the infinite potential of “the lamp of mitzvah” and “the light of Torah” to be revealed.

Based on the above, we can understand why a person who is meticulous in his observance of the mitzvah of Chanukah candles will merit sons who are Torah scholars. Since the mitzvah of Chanukah candles brings a revelation of the infinite light of Torah,16 this infinity is expressed in that the light of Torah is revealed, not only for oneself, but also, for one’s children. Indeed, in this context, the word “sons” can be interpreted as “descendants,” i.e., the revelation of the light of Torah continues in future generations as well.

Furthermore, it can be explained that the mitzvah of Chanukah candles brings out the infinite dimension that exists in all the mitzvos, revealing how they: a) draw G‑dliness down into this world; b) follow a pattern of continued growth; c) shine “the lamp of mitzvah and the light of Torah” at the outside of the entrance of one’s home, projecting this light into one’s surrounding environment.

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2. There is a connection between the above and this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Mikeitz. The word mikeitz means “At the conclusion of,” and thus expresses the concept of limitation. Indeed, Torah Or interprets mikeitz as relating to the limits that exist within Torah study. Yosef who reflects the potential for increase without any limitation allows the infinite dimension of Torah to be revealed. When, however, Yosef is “forgotten,” the Torah appears to be limited, and Yosef remains limited, confined in jail.17 Nevertheless, this is only a temporary situation, and ultimately, Yosef “leaves prison to rule,” and is given the potential to reveal his true unlimited nature.

This lesson is relevant for every Jew, for Yosef is also used as a name for the people as a whole. Thus, Yosef’s imprisonment in jail can reflect each Jew’s confinement in a physical body in this material world. Here, “those imprisoned by the king,” i.e., each Jew whose soul is sent into this world by G‑d, King of kings, “are confined.” This, however, is not a Jew’s true place and he can “leave prison to rule,” to take control over his environment.

Based on the above, we can interpret our Sages’ statement, “One who goes to a city should adopt its customs” as follows: When the soul descends within the limits of the body and the material world, it should accept those limits, but not because they confine the soul, but rather because the soul is on a mission, to elevate and refine the world.

The same applies to the concept of “the law of the land is your law.” A Jew must submit to the law of the land, not because it has real power over him, but because by doing so, he can elevate it and use it as a medium to spread righteousness and justice throughout the world, influencing the entire populace to accept the seven universal laws commanded to Noach and his descendants. In this manner, the Jews and Torah will take control of the world at large. It will be revealed how following the laws of the Torah will bring benefit to any country which does so. This will hasten the coming of the time when it will be revealed throughout the world that, “the sovereignty will be the L‑rd’s” in the Era of the complete Redemption.

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3. In this context, a lesson can be derived from the special Torah reading associated with Chanukah, the sacrifices offered by the fourth of the Nesi’im, the Nasi of Reuven. Reuven was Yaakov’s firstborn. A firstborn is by nature, a leader, one who influences his brothers, an example whose conduct they emulate. Similarly, the word Nasi means “prince” or “leader.” Thus, a reading connected with the Nesi’im and in particular, the Nasi of Reuven, reflects the leadership potential each Jew possesses, the ability to influence the world at large.

The fourth day of Chanukah also contributes an additional concept. Four alludes to the four corners of the world and makes each person realize that these are his responsibility. His service must encompass all four corners of the world, making the world like a closed mem which will prevent the intrusion of any undesirable elements.

It is human nature that when a person who is involved in a particular issue confronts any new concept, he immediately looks for the connection it shares with the idea with which he was originally involved. A Jew must constantly be involved in the yearning and desire for the coming of Mashiach. “Each day, we must wait for him, that he come.” Therefore, it is natural for a Jew to look for a connection to Mashiach’s coming in every event or concept which he encounters. This also applies regarding Chanukah. Since the Chanukah miracle took place in the Beis HaMikdash, its commemoration arouses an even greater yearning for the era when the Menorah will be kindled again in the Third Beis HaMikdash.

Similarly, there is a connection between the above and this week’s portion, Parshas Mikeitz. When a Jew hears the name mikeitz, because he is constantly yearning for Mashiach’s coming, he immediately associates it with the word keitz which refers to the time of Mashiach’s coming. Similarly, when he hears the vision of the Menorah mentioned in the Haftorah, he immediately associates it with the Menorah of the Beis HaMikdash.

This is enhanced by the fourth light of Chanukah which alludes to the fourth redemption and heightens our expectation of the time when we will, “kindle lamps in Your Holy courtyard,” with the coming of Mashiach. May it be in the immediate future.