24 Dec Insight on the Holiday of Chanukah
There is an interesting thought behind the lighting of the Menorah. We light as per Bet Hillel who said on the first night we should light one candle, and on each subsequent night we add an additional candle. Meaning on the 2nd night we light 2 candles, on the third night we light 3 candles, and so on.
The question is asked why did Bet Hillel decree this way? Why don’t we light as they did in the Bet Hamikdash and light all 8 candles each day? Why gradually go up? The miracle was that all the candles of the Menorah lasted for 8 days. So why don’t we light all the candles every night?
The light represents wisdom. It represents enlightment. Even in old cartoons, when a person would have a good idea they would show a light bulb over his head. The light always represents wisdom and Hochma. The reason why we light increasingly going up, is to illustrate that a person should not stagnate his growth and spiritual development. A person always has to be moving further and increasing his knowledge and his wisdom of Torah. Therfore we start with one light, and on the next night 2 lights, and so on. This symbolizes the continued evolutionary growth one will experience with continued effort. One has to constantly be growing, as the Gemara says ‘Ma’Alim BaKodesh’, meaning one should be increasing his level of sanctity. In life, we may not be stationary and stagnate our spiritual growth.
Aside from symbolizing stagnation, lighting the same number of candles every night also comes to symbolize running before walking. It is considered grasping for too much too fast. A person has to elevate himself gradually. A person has to set a strong foundation which can only be achieved through gradual growth. Rising or jumping to the top too quickly might lead to a tragic quick fall back to the bottom. So lighting 8 candles right away it is too much. We need to increase gradually and consistently.
And that’s what the Gemara was trying to explain when it says ‘Ma’Alim BaKodesh VeLo Moridim’, meaning one needs to grow and not regress. However, growth has to be sustained, and it should not be too fast.
That’s one important lesson to focus on and remind ourselves as we light the Menorah. It’s the lesson of gradual sustained growth. So B’Ezrat Hashem ,when light we will not only fulfill the Halachic requirement of lighting the Menorah, but we will also realize the Hashkafic benefits of continued prosperous and spiritual growth.