June 16, 2024
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Shabbos Chanukah and Harmony in the Household

Shabbos Chanukah is a special time to spend with family. Just a year ago I was in Queens on Shabbos Chanukah with my soon-to-be son-in-law and his family for his Shabbos aufruf. It was such a bonding experience. I remember feeling so much at home with this new part of our family. My wife and I are so grateful to this day.

Seeing Chanukah candles next to the Shabbos candles is a beautiful picture, but there is an even deeper significance. The Gemara (Shabbos 23b) tells us someone who is accustomed to lighting both Chanukah and Shabbos candles (as Rashi explains) will merit to have children who will be talmidei chachamim (Torah
scholars)!

What is the unique connection of these two mitzvos? Why does performing both of them properly merit having children who are talmidei chachamim?

Shabbos candles glorify the Shabbos, illuminating the delicacies being served and the family sitting around the Shabbos table. More importantly, the Gemara says they provide harmony in the home, as a poorly lit house can lead one to stumble and cause friction in the home. The Chanukah lights have a different purpose: they are there to publicize the miracle.

Yet, side by side, which is more important: Shabbos candles or Chanukah candles? The halacha (Shulchan Aruch 678:1) states one who has only enough money to purchase one type of candle must choose the Shabbos candles. The Shabbos candles take precedence since they provide harmony in the home, which is an even higher priority than publicizing the miracle of Chanukah.

One can now appreciate the tremendous glow and holiness that join together on Shabbos Chanukah. We act to provide harmony in the home through the Shabbos candles. We also publicize the great Chanukah miracle. From the joining of these two lights, the family merits children who will be Torah scholars.

Think about it. The Shabbos candles provide not only light in the home, but also the warmth and radiance for a proper environment to raise wonderful Jewish children. A home with discord has children who grow up with instability. One of my rebbeim told me when he meets a new boy coming to his yeshiva, he asks about his parents’ relationship, as this tells him a lot about the boy.

To become knowledgeable in learning does not require good character traits, but to become a talmid chacham requires a foundation of proper caring and behavior toward others. Children need to see that modeled in their parents.

The Greeks understood the power and influence of the home environment and the “national” home that was the Beis Hamikdash. It’s why they enacted laws to defile our homes and the Beis Hamikdash. Rav Avrohom Schorr explains that they created windows in the Beis Hamikdash to allow light to enter and to allow the people inside to look outward. They wanted the outside light from their culture to enlighten the Jews in the Temple, as well as for the Jews to gaze outward to the Greeks’ culture for their life lessons.

The Bnei Yissaschar explains that is why we light Chanukah candles either outside our door or in our window: to focus on the values and beliefs present in our home. Those values and beliefs are what we want to radiate out to the world. This publicizing of the miracle with lights specifically combats the corrupting intent of the Greeks.

Indeed, when we light candles in each of our homes, we demonstrate that the presence of Hashem is inside. This is illustrated in the word Chanukah, whose root is chinuch (to educate), plus the letter “heh,” which represents a connection with Hashem. Our connection with Hashem starts from chanukas habayis, dedicating the household to be a proper Jewish environment. Then, when we are blessed with children, to raise and educate those children properly within that established Jewish environment.

Shalom bayis (peace in the household) is an ongoing project that needs attentiveness and constant focus. Let us dedicate this Chanukah to raising the peacefulness in our home, be it to our spouse, parents, children or siblings, by talking and acting pleasantly. Erev Shabbos is often a tense time, with many last-minute preparations (and Erev Shabbos Chanukah is doubly so)! We can all contribute to a peaceful Chanukah atmosphere by helping in one way or another to alleviate the pressures and tension that can fill our home at that time.

May our observance of the mitzvos of Shabbos and Chanukah help us all merit to raise wonderful, beautiful families, with children who will be talmidei chachamim!


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. PTI has attracted people from all over northern New Jersey, including Teaneck, Paramus, Fair Lawn, Livingston and West Orange. He initiated and leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. He has spread out beyond PTI to begin a weekly beis medrash program with in-depth chavrusa learning in Livingston, Fort Lee and a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its full offering of torah classes visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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