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Parshot Festivals

Brighter than Chanukah candles

  • RabbiStern
This weekend is one of the busiest on the Jewish calendar. It’s called Shabbos-Rosh Chodesh-Chanukah. On Friday afternoon, we will light two sets of candles, the Chanukah menorah with its six burning candles, followed by the regular Shabbos candles. On Shabbos morning, we will read from three Torahs in shul, compared to the regular Shabbos, when we read from one and sometimes two Torahs.
by Rabbi Yehuda Stern, Sydenham Shul | Dec 06, 2018

Judaica stores around the world are bustling with customers buying the necessary paraphernalia for lighting the menorah. Olive oil, candles, cups, and wicks are purchased in bulk during this time of the year. But that wasn’t always the case. There were times when the cost of Chanukah lights was financially prohibitive for the average shopper.

Maimonides asks a practical question. If a person could afford only one candle for Friday afternoon, which should he use it for, Shabbos light or Chanukah light?

Logically, one could suggest that he use it for Chanukah. Shabbos candles are lit every Friday afternoon, while Chanukah candles are lit for only eight days of the year. Grab the opportunity to kindle the Chanukah light, and resume lighting Shabbos candles the following week. But that is not the ruling of Maimonides. Shabbos light takes priority because it symbolises shalom bayit, domestic peace. Its purpose is to bring light and peace into the home, and because shalom bayit is key, Shabbos light takes precedence over Chanukah light.

Life’s responsibilities pull us in many different directions. Family, friends, work, studies, hobbies, and more. Especially in today’s technological age with the internet and social media at our fingertips, we are often juggling multiple activities simultaneously. It is challenging to keep up, and we are often given a choice of where to direct our attention. Maimonides’ ruling is more relevant now than ever before. Shalom bayit – peace in our homes, our marriages, and our families – is the most important aspect of our lives, more important than all our pursuits and aspirations, and even more vital than a mitzvah like Chanukah candles.

The Torah tells us about the sotah, the wayward wife who is suspected for committing adultery. The couple would travel to the Temple looking for assistance and advice. The cohen would prepare the “bitter water”, which the wife would drink to help verify whether or not she was guilty. The preparation of this special potion included the writing on parchment of this specific Torah portion, with G-d’s name written out in full. This was dissolved into the water until there was no remnant of writing left on the parchment. This story illustrates the importance of the husband-wife relationship and shalom bayit, to the point that G-d is willing for His name to be erased in order to help bring peace into their home.

When there is peace in our homes, we experience blessings and success in all other facets of our lives. This is the ultimate festival of light.

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