1. This year the celebration of Chanukah is unique in that both the first and final days of the holiday fall on Shabbos. This reflects the nature of the year as a whole. It is a Shemitah year, a year which is “a Shabbos unto G‑d.” Furthermore, Rosh Hashanah (“the head of the year”) also fell on the Shabbos.

The Shabbos-like quality which relates to Chanukah is expressed in the Haftorah. The Torah readings for Chanukah of these Shabbosos continue the descriptions of the gifts of the Nesi’im and thus, are no different than the Torah reading during the week. In contrast, the reading of the Haftorah communicates a unique message connected with the Shabbos.

The service of Chanukah is characterized by the principle, “Always ascend higher in holy matters” as expressed in the addition of a new candle each night. This principle would lead to the assumption that the second Shabbos of Chanukah possesses a higher quality than the first. This higher quality should be expressed in the Haftorah of the second Shabbos which should reveal a more elevated dimension than the first.

The first Haftorah of Chanukah describes Zechariah’s vision of the Menorah while the second Haftorah describes the fashioning of the Menorah in the time of King Solomon. On the surface, Zechariah’s vision is on a higher level, revealing wondrous qualities that will only by realized in the Menorah of the Messianic age. (Indeed, a direct allusion to the Messianic era is made in the conclusion of the Haftorah, in the verse, “Behold, I am bringing My servant, Tzemach.”)

In contrast, the Haftorah of the final Shabbos merely describes the fashioning of the Menorah without mentioning any detail. Furthermore, from the statements of our Sages, it appears that this Menorah was not used in the Beis HaMikdash. Rather, the Menorah made for the Sanctuary in the desert was used instead.

Furthermore, the Rabbis explain that there is reason to change the order of the Haftoros and read the description of Solomon’s Menorah first since this is the chronological order in which the events occurred. However, since the vision of Zechariah was associated with the second Beis HaMikdash which is connected with the Chanukah festival and since it is associated with Messianic prophecies, it is given precedence. This rationale appears to run contrary to the principle of “always ascend higher.”

Indeed, one may question why the passage connected with Solomon’s Menorah was chosen as a Haftorah. The passage describes the fashioning of the vessels of the Beis HaMikdash including among them mention of the Menoros (plural) which Solomon made. The Menoros, however, are not given any special notice. Mention of them is made only as part of the totality of the vessels in the Beis HaMikdash.

Furthermore, in the passage that is recited as the Haftorah, no mention is made of the dedication (Chanukas) of the Beis HaMikdash. In the Bible, the very next verse mentions the dedication of the Beis HaMikdash, however, this is not included in the Haftorah although it would be an obvious connection to Chanukah which celebrates the rededication of the Beis HaMikdash by the Hasmoneans.

[This difficulty is further emphasized by the fact that the Torah reading associated with the final day of Chanukah describes the sum total of the offerings brought during the dedication of the altar of the Sanctuary. Therefore, the mention of the dedication of the Beis HaMikdash would appear more appropriate to be chosen as the Haftorah.]

These difficulties can be resolved through the explanation of another concept: Our Sages declare: Were the Jews to observe two Shabbasos according to law, they would be redeemed. The question arises: Why is it necessary to observe two Shabbasos? On the surface, the entire concept of Shabbos stems from the initial Shabbos of creation. Indeed, each week represents a repetition of that cycle — to explain the concept in Kabbalistic terms: Shabbos represents a transcendence of time. Therefore, each week the cycle of time is begun again. The same spiritual qualities that were revealed on the first Sunday are revealed again. This is alluded in our statements made before reciting the Psalm of the day: “Today is the first day of the Shabbos...” Accordingly, since each Shabbos is a reflection of the first Shabbos, why is it necessary for the Jews to observe two Shabbasos? The observance of one would appear sufficient.

This question can be resolved as follows: In Likkutei Torah, the Alter Rebbe explains that each Shabbos has a twofold nature. Thus, the two Shabbosos mentioned in the Talmud are actually two dimensions of the same Shabbos. (On this basis, the Alter Rebbe resolves the contradiction between the Jerusalem Talmud which states that it is sufficient for the Jews to observe one Shabbos for Mashiach to come and the Babylonian Talmud which requires the observance of two Shabbasos as quoted above.)

The twofold nature of Shabbos is reflected in two types of service, one which conforms to the limitations of the world (the service of the Tzaddikim) and a second service which transcends those limitations (the service of Teshuvah).

Another comparison between these two services can be taken from the statements of the Alter Rebbe in Tanya who explains the Talmud’s interpretation of the verse: “And you shall see the difference between one who serves G‑d and one who does not serve Him.” Our Sages explain that “one who serves G‑d” is a person who reviews his studies 101 times, while “one who does not serve Him” is one who reviews his studies only 100 times.

Reviewing one’s studies 100 times is also a high level. One hundred is ten times ten; i.e., the ten powers of the soul as they are interrelated each one with the other. By studying a concept one hundred times, one causes the subject matter to permeate every aspect of one’s personality. The person is, nevertheless, still operating within the context of his personal limitations, his nature and his habits. Therefore, this service is referred to as “not serving G‑d.”

By studying the subject matter an additional time, one goes beyond his habits and nature (even those habits and nature which are “holy”). Therefore, “it is considered as equivalent to all the previous study. [Indeed,] it surpasses them... and makes one worthy of being called a servant of G‑d.”

This is the nature of a twofold service. It involves not merely a quantitative addition, but rather rising to a different level of service, an unbounded quality. The deed which one performs that lifts one into this level of service is insignificant. The emphasis is on transcending one’s limitations and the slightest activity can lift one into this realm.

Based on the above, we can understand the twofold nature of Shabbos: Shabbos is above the limitations of the world. The service during the six days of the week is a service of limitation and the service of Shabbos involves transcending those limitations. This is the meaning of the statement: The service of Shabbos is twofold, i.e., it reflects a level which transcends limitation.

From a deeper perspective, the statement: “The service of Shabbos is twofold,” can be interpreted as two levels of service beyond limitation (two Shabbasos):

one which is considered as beyond limitation in comparison to the limitations of the world; and

one which transcends all limitation, which does not differentiate between the concepts of limitation and infinity at all.

The latter level is reflected in our Shabbos behavior in which we do not necessarily involve ourselves with transcendent spiritual matters. On the contrary, on Shabbos, we are involved in basic physical activities, eating, drinking, and the like. Nevertheless, it is through these physical acts that the unlimited spiritual pleasure of Shabbos is revealed.1

In this context, we can understand a deeper implication in our Sages’ expression, “Were the Jews to observe two Shabbasos according to law....” The Hebrew for “according to law,” כהלכתן, also relates to the word הליכה, progression. In particular, Shabbos is associated with two levels of progression, “an ascent from below to above to arouse the sublime pleasure,” “a descent from above to below,... revealing the sublime pleasure on a lowly plane.”

The first progression relates to the lower level of Shabbos mentioned above, [one rises from the limitation of the weekday service to the transcendence of Shabbos]. The second progress reflects the higher level of Shabbos, [i.e., because a level nullifying all limitation is revealed, the level of sublime pleasure can be expressed in our material world].

The second level of Shabbos is “a microcosm of the world to come,” the era where the light of G‑d’s infinity will be revealed within this world. Since G‑d’s essence transcends all limitation, and is above all concepts of above or below, it allows for the revelation to reach souls as they are enclothed within bodies in this material world, reflecting G‑d’s desire to have a dwelling place within the lower worlds.

The above concept provides a basis to explain the two Shabbosos of Chanukah. Chanukah is associated with the illumination of darkness — therefore, the Chanukah lights are kindled after sunset — as expressed in the verse “The L‑rd will illuminate my darkness.” “The L‑rd” refers to a level of transcendent light which is revealed on Chanukah.

In particular, the illumination of the darkness on Chanukah is connected with two different concepts:

1) The revelation of the light in a place of darkness, [i.e., the extension of the light into a place where it would not naturally shine];

2) The transformation of the darkness and its becoming a place fit for the revelation of light.

The second concept is a much more profound new development. Although the extension of light into darkness is also a new development, [the newness involves only an extension of light beyond its natural boundaries]. However, the definition of light and its function do not change. In contrast, the new development which effects the darkness [represents an essential change of definition]. This is possible only through the revelation of a quality that transcends the definition of light.

We find a parallel to this in our service. Study can be compared to light for intellect is the highest of human potentials and [performs a function similar] to light. Deed, in contrast, is the lowest of our potentials and thus, can be compared to darkness.

Our Sages stated, “Study is great because it brings to deed.” This statement reflects two different concepts:

a) An advantage in the realm of study. Deed is a barometer to see whether the study is as it should be. When study is “great,” it “brings to deed.”

b) An advantage in the realm of deed. On a deeper level, deed can be seen, not only as a barometer of one’s study, but as a service in its own right. In the Messianic age, deed will be greater than study. That level, the true “greatness of deed,” is brought about by study.

These two levels are also reflected in the two Shabbasos of Chanukah: The first Shabbos reflects the greatness of the light, its ability to shine even within the darkness. The second Shabbos reflects the revelation of the quality above light which effects a change within the darkness itself. Thus, this reflects the two levels of Shabbos explained above, the lower level which reflects the transition from a limited light (the light of memale kol almin) to an infinite light (the light of sovaiv kol almin), and the higher level reflecting a quality that transcends all concept of limitation.

This difference is reflected in the Haftoros2 which are associated with these two Shabbasos. The Haftorah of the first Shabbos, the vision of Zechariah, describes the function of the Menorah within the Beis HaMikdash, i.e., it relates to the quality of light. The Haftorah of the second Shabbos deals with the preparations for making the vessels in the Beis HaMikdash among them, the Menorah. Thus, it relates to darkness, a material entity as it exists before being elevated and refined, and its transformation into the ultimate of holiness, a vessel for the revelation of G‑dly light.

Thus, we can see how the two Haftoros reflect a process of “ascending higher in holy matters.” The first Haftorah describes the revelation of unlimited light, while the second Haftorah relates to a level which transcends all definitions of light and darkness.

The above has ramifications regarding our service of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward, taking “the light of Torah and the candle of mitzvah” and placing it “at the entrance to one’s house [pointing] outward.” This allows the light of Pnimiyus HaTorah, the oil of Torah, to permeate the outer reaches.

This involves two new developments: one in regard to the light; its extension into the outer reaches, and one in regard to the outer reaches; that they become transformed into a place which is fit for the revelation of light. This comes about through the influence of a level that transcends entirely the concept of light.

To express the above in simple terms: When one lights “the candle of G‑d, the soul of man,” in another Jew, kindling it until it burns on its own, one reveals the greatness of G‑d’s light. When, however, one meets a Jew in the outer reaches and points out the Jewish identity which is shared and, on that basis, strikes up a conversation, [a deeper interaction is taking place]. Although one has not kindled any light, this activity resembles making the vessels in the Beis HaMikdash. It takes place within darkness (the menorah has not been lit). It is rooted, however, in the highest of levels for the essence of the Jews transcends all concept of light.

Ultimately, this activity will also bring to the illumination of the Jews soul with the light of Torah (as in the Beis HaMikdash, ultimately, the vessels were used for a sacrificial purpose). However, kindling that light comes afterwards. The second Haftorah speaks of a more fundamental and essential service, taking a physical entity (and not only gold, but silver and brass as well) and making it into a utensil to be used in the Beis HaMikdash, G‑d’s dwelling.

May everyone make full use of the all the revelations of Chanukah. May the efforts of Mivtza Chanukah, spreading the observance of Chanukah outward, illuminating the darkness, be continued in the following days, “advancing further in holy matters.” May these activities — including the establishment of Chabad houses in every community and each individual’s efforts to make his own house a place for study, prayer, and deeds of kindness — illuminate the darkness of exile and hasten the coming of the dedication of the third Beis HaMikdash.