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Perashat Mikess 5778

Home > Rabbi's Weekly Message > Perashat Mikess 5778

Perashat Mikess 5778

Friday, December 15, 2017 Author: Rabbi Mimoun Miller

An interesting dispute between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel about the order of lighting Hanukkah lights each night is cited in the Gemarah Shabbat.
Bet Hillel is of the opinion that we light one candle the first night, and then we increase the number of candles nightly. Bet Shammai takes the opposing position that on the first night we light eight candles, and each night we decrease them one by one. What is the basis of their disagreement?
To get to the heart of these views it is essential to understand the significance of light and dark in the story of Hanukkah. 
The Greeks threatened to obscure and corrupt our spiritual lives. Bet Shammai believed that the best way to combat the darkness that they imposed on the Jewish people was by fighting it head-on with full force, gradually reducing its intensity. Symbolically, lighting eight brightly burning candles all at once produces a blazing flame. By decreasing its illumination nightly, it becomes a delicate glow. However by using this "Shock and Awe" approach, we risk losing its effectiveness. 

Bet Hillel's approach was different. They posited that it is more beneficial to increase the good in your life progressively, with acts of kindness and by leading by example. This has to be done delicately and with perseverance. So by lighting one little candle at a time, consistently adding another each of the eight nights until the entire menorah is lit, we fill the home with enough brilliant light so that darkness will be a distant memory.

In our own lives, we experience darkness in many ways. Metaphorically speaking, we feel it in the hateful people around us, or just by watching the news, which can be bleak and darkly representative of the world around us. When tempted by the Yesser Hara, there are two approaches we can take. 

Bet Shammai's way is to fight it with all your might at the risk of losing its effectiveness over time. However, there is another way, the way that has been decided according to Halakha and is compatible with Bet Hillel's view, starting with one small candle and steadily increasing them. This method means to build upon the good within us, by reading Tehilim, learning Torah, and doing Missvot, going from strength to strength. Let us gradually add to the light within us until there is no room left for the darkness of the Yesser Hara.

May the lights of Hanukkah usher in a better world for all mankind.
Shabbat Shalom and Hanukkah Sameah!

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