Monday, December 7, 2015

The Kabbala of Chanukah Candles

Candles are placed in the menorah from right to left, with the number of candles corresponding to which night of Chanukah it is. There is also one additional candle, which is usually elevated, called the “shamash,” or service candle. The shamash is lit first, and is then used to light the other candles, from left to right.

In other words, the candles are positioned from the right side of the menorah but we light from left to right. [Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chaim, 676:5]

After the candles are lit, the blessings are then said:

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has wrought miracles for our forefathers, in those days at this season.

Note: some siddurim state the words as "Le'hadlik ner SHEL Chanukah", however this is incorrect - As noted by the Hid"a [Rav Haim Yosef David Azulai, 1724-1807], there is profound meaning and significance in this sequence of words, as the first letters of these words - "Lamed," "Nun" and "Het" - are the same letters that begin the three words "Noser Hesed La'alafim" ["He preserves kindness for thousands of generations"]. Therefore, even though some Siddurim print the text of the Beracha as "Le'hadlik Ner Shel Hanukah" one must ensure to recite the proper text - "Le'hadlik Ner Hanukah" [Rabbi Eli Mansour]

This prayer is said on the first night only:

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

The candles should be in an even row, no curves, no height variations. They should be well-spaced so their flames do not appear merged (and if candles, that they do not melt each other). No use should be made of the lights shed by the Chanukah candles, such as reading by their light. For the Friday eve of Chanukah, the lights must be kindled before sunset and before the Shabbat candles are lit. Additional oil (or larger candles) should be provided to ensure that they can burn until half an hour after nightfall.

In the Talmud, the relationship between the menorah and the mezuzah is established: "The Chanukah menorah should be outside of the door on the left side and the mezuzah should be on the right side in order that we should be surrounded by G-d's commandments."

If for some reason there is no mezuzah on the doorpost, the menorah should be placed on the right side. If lighting next to a window, the menorah should be placed on the right side of the window, however there is no point lighting at a window if your windows are so high up that no-one will see the candles.

Although today we place the Chanukah menorah indoors, in the time of the Talmud and today, in Israel, the menorah is placed outside the door.

The menorah is compared to the mezuzah. Both are on the outside. Both are near the door. Yet something deeper is alluded to when the Talmud compares the menorah to the mezuzah.

There are several differences between the two items: the mezuzah is on the outside, but it functions for the inside of the house to protect the inhabitants. The menorah is on the outside with its message for the outside world to proclaim to all the miracle of Chanukah.

In the language of the mystics of the Kabbala, the left and right have deep significance. The left is attributed to gevurah, the concept of strength. The right is associated with chesed, the act of giving. The mezuzah is on the right; it is G-d's protection of our houses so that no evil may enter. That is the chesed, the kindness - that He stands on the outside and guards our house.

The Chanukah menorah is on the left symbolizing Hashem's strength (gevurah) and control of the world and the great miracles He performed for us.

These days we do not put the menorah outside generally for practical reasons or perhaps we are afraid of the people in the street. So we light the candles inside and illuminate the house. G-d's strength and ability to do miracles and wonders are still around. However, we need the menorah inside to tell us that message. It no longer stands outside of our houses relating to the person who is in the dark, that the message of Chanukah is for him. The menorah is now inside the house, and its message is now for us.

The light of the menorah reassures us not to fear the darkness. It is a reminder that the darkest hours come before the dawn, and at a time when we had no friends, G-d helped us overcome our numerous enemies.

1 comment:

Maggid said...

thank you . . I needed this reminder.