The people walking in darkness will see a great light. Upon those dwelling in the land of the shadow of death, light will shine. – Isaiah 9:2, TLV
The seventh day of Chanukah this year begins at the the close of the Seventh Day celebration, the Shabbat celebration. Shabbat is an important part of Chanukah. Every Chanukah has at least one Shabbat in it and, in some years, it has two Shabbatot — but that’s just the nature of an eight-day festival, I guess. Remember that Shabbat was one of the things that Antiochus, the villain of Chanukah, forbade the Jewish people to observe. During those three-and-a-half years, lighting the Shabbat candles could only be done in secret on pain of death. Shabbat is the sign of the covenant that HaShem made with His people Israel at Sinai. Attempting to put a stop to the Seventh Day celebration and remembrance is a serious thing — it is seeking to extinguish the Light that Shabbat shows to the world.
As each Shabbat approaches, all over the world, Jewish families light Shabbat candles before sundown. Think about how this works — the beginning of the seventh day comes first to the nations just west of the dateline — the first Shabbat lights are kindled in the Jewish homes of New Zealand, then across the expanse of the Australian continent and Asia, across Europe and Africa, and then across the Americas from East to West. For twenty-four hours, there is a constant stream of lights being lit across the globe — giving light to remember and guard the Seventh Day and to push back the darkness. The Jewish sages teach the these Shabbat lights are for the “Peace of the House.” In order to maintain the delight of the Shabbat, you need to be able to see — no tripping over the furniture or wondering what you’re eating for Erev Shabbat meal! The Shabbat lights push back the darkness in our homes. We light the Shabbat lights for the inner world of our homes. Picture it, it is the Light of the World found within each of our hearts and homes all the way across the world on Shabbat.
We also light the Chanukah lights, but these are a different sort of light. We don’t light them to have light and peace in the home, but to shed the light abroad outside of our homes. To do this, it’s customary to place the Chanukkiah in a door or window where they are visible to the world outside. The lights’ only purpose it to remember the miracle Chanukah, showing the Light to the World. If there is a need for the Chanukah lights to serve any other purpose that is the role of the Shamash candle; that “higher” candle is the one that is used if we need light, or is used in the lighting of the others, leaving the daily lights to shine forth into the world. The lights of the Chanukkiah reach out into the world and push back the darkness.
The third light of the Chanukah Shabbat is the light of Havdalah. This braided candle, with several interwoven wicks, is used to mark the end of the holy (or set-apart) time of the Shabbat and the beginning of the everyday for the six days until the next Shabbat. If the Shabbat candles symbolize the inner light and the lights of Chanukah symbolize the lights to the outside world, perhaps the Havdalah light is for the transition between the two. Each week from Havdalah, we seek to “carry” the Light of Shabbat with us, shining it forth into the world around us throughout the other six days of the week. This week, on the seventh day of Chanukah, let us think of how we can go forth from the Seventh Day of the week, bearing the Light to the World and pushing back the darkness.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it. – John 1:5, TLV
Originally published Dec 9, 2018