Eight Thoughts for Eight Nights (3)
What can we learn from the Shabbat, Havdallah and Chanukah candles?
There is more than one command in Judaism to light lights. There are three. There are the Shabbat candles. There is the havdallah candle. And there are the Chanukah candles.
The difference between them is that Shabbat candles represent shalom bayit, peace in the home. They are lit indoors. They are, if you like, Judaism’s inner light, the light of the sanctity of marriage and the holiness of home.
The Chanukah candles used to be lit outside — outside the front door. It was only fear of persecution that took the Chanukah candles back inside, and in recent times the Lubavitcher Rebbe introduced the custom of lighting giant menorahs in public places to bring back the original spirit of the day.
Chanukah candles are the light Judaism brings to the world when we are unafraid to announce our identity in public, live by our principles and fight, if necessary, for our freedom.
As for the havdallah candle, which is always made up of several wicks woven together, it represents the fusion of the two, the inner light of Shabbat, joined to the outer light we make during the six days of the week when we go out into the world and live our faith in public.
When we live as Jews in private, filling our homes with the light of the Shechinah, when we live as Jews in public, bringing the light of hope to others, and when we live both together, then we bring light to the world.
There always were two ways to live in a world that is often dark and full of tears. We can curse the darkness or we can light a light, and as the Chassidim say, a little light drives out much darkness. May we all help light up the world.