June 16, 2024
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The tzadik Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin would, from time to time, prefer to light Chanukah menorah with thick wax candles, rather than oil. The talmidim respectfully challenged him: “Rebbe, is it not the accepted view that the ideal, most mehudar way to light the Chanukah menorah is with olive oil, through which the miracle occurred?” “Of course,” replied the Rebbe, “oil lights are beautiful and provide the ideal light on Chanukah. But you see, wax candles make more of a mess, and the impression they leave on the surface where they are lit remains throughout the year.”

One year a small fire broke out from an unwieldy wick that burst into uncontrollable flames, burning a section of the wall next to the window where the menorah was lit. Rebbe Shlomo Karliner was ecstatic. The farbrente wall would be a reminder of the holiness and joy of Chanukah all year ‘round!

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In this week’s sedra, Yosef Hatzadik ascends to the powerful role of second in command over all of Egypt, and through interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh is responsible for the survival of the country and region during intensive famine. Pharaoh empowers Yosef to implement his plan to collect the surplus of grain and amass provisions during the period of abundance in order to be sustained during the time of famine.

Then, back in Eretz Yisrael, Yaakov Avinu instructs his sons to descend to Egypt to procure food. “Buy us some from there, v’nichyeh, v’lo namut, so that we will live and not die.” (42:2)

Reb Nosson of Breslov understands the eitza of Yosef Hatzadik as instructive for all of us. During times of high, abundant spirituality or mochin d’gadlus, expanded consciousness, we should “save up,” charging our internal batteries and stock-piling experiential holiness, vitality and light for the “rainy day” that is sure to come. Thus, the more energy we invest in celebrating Shabbos Kodesh and moadim, the more they become a source of illumination for the following days of chol.

Throughout Chanukah, night after night, we have added more light, mosif v’holech, growing, moving forward joyfully, step-by-step, toward a full menorah and complete illumination. How special these days have been, and how deeply we wish we could hold onto them. While we are still uplifted by the inspiration and beauty of the moed, after this Shabbos, the vast darkness of winter and post-Chanukah blues loom large.

And so, let us reflect on a teaching of Rebbe Eliyahu, the holy Vilna Gaon, zy”a: Ner, the halachic term referring to the candle, the vessel, p’til, the wick, and shemen, the fuel, form the acronym of the word nefesh, soul. In lighting the Chanukah candles we have awakened the spark within, and have, in effect, set our inner world ablaze. While the candles are lit for only eight nights, on the inside, in our nefesh, we remain illuminated all year. The soul of a Jew is always lit.

May Hashem help us internalize the sweetness of the menorah’s glow, v’nichyeh, v’lo namut—so that we will “live and be fully alive” with the beauty and glow of Chanukah long after it has gone (hopefully without a farbrente wall or wax stains!).

Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom, and a lichtige year!


Rabbi Judah Mischel is executive director of Camp HASC and mashpia of OU-NCSY. He is a member of Mizrachi’s Speakers Bureau (mizrachi.org/speakers).

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