8 Lessons From the Chanukah Lights

photo: Shoshana Judelman
photo: Shoshana Judelman

My birthday is on Chanukah, so in lieu of being able to send out personal blessings to all of you, I want to share an idea that has given me some extra strength this year.  May it be a blessing and a prayer for all of us.

In the discussion about lighting Chanukah candles in the Gemara (Shabbos 21b), there are differing opinions about which way is the best.  There are three basic ideas:

  1. Light one Chanukah menorah per household
  2. Light one Chanukah menorah per person
  3. Light either an ascending or a descending number of lights each night (either per household or per person)
    1. According to the House of Shammai we should light 8 candles on the first night and a decreasing amount each night for 8 nights
    2. According to the House of Hillel we should light 1 candle on the first night and an increasing amount up to 8 candles on the last night

Even though there are different customs about how many menorahs to light per household, we all follow the House of Hillel.  Everyone lights an increasing number of candles.  This is considered “Mehadrin min HaMehadrin”- the “best of the best” way to light the candles on Chanukah.

What I find surprising and meaningful is that NO ONE suggests that the best way would be to light all 8 candles on the first night and 8 candles every night thereafter.  Wouldn’t that be the most exciting and most light-filled?  Wouldn’t that bring the most energy into the world?

And yet, we don’t do it that way.

There are important lessons here…

These are the 8 that I am working on internalizing:

  1. Remember that the journey is just as important as (if not more important than) the destination. We spend far more time in it and we often forget to value how we are growing along the way.
  2. Constant growth as a value– Each one of us wakes up every morning with the opportunity to grow, to do something a little bit differently, to respond a bit more positively, to learn a new skill or smile at someone new, to take a chances and to bring more light into the world.
  3. Acknowledge each achievement – Each candle represents one small achievement and we acknowledge and celebrate all of them. This type of encouragement and positive reinforcement strengthens us to keep trying.
  4. Setting achievable goals– Each night when we light one more candle, we have achieved another goal. That sense of accomplishment empowers us to dream our dreams…and then to try and reach for them.
  5. No one is expected to be able to do something perfectly the first time- We don’t jump straight to 8. We must have patience with ourselves and not give up.  We need to learn that only through time, effort and repetition can we become proficient at whatever tasks we set for ourselves.
  6. Life happens one day at a time- Try to remember to take each day as it comes and to not make yourself afraid by stressing out over what is coming up. Your life is happening right this minute and now is when you can make all the difference.  Be here now.
  7. Keep moving forward- Life presents us with many challenges and we just have to keep going, not wallow in what was or what “could have been”- just keep going and trying
  8. Little. Bit. Counts. All of the effort that we ever put in has an effect on us and the world around us.

May we all be strengthened, energized and healed by the light of the Chanukah candles.  May we all internalize the light and utilize it to look at our children, our communities and ourselves with compassion and encouragement.

And may we merit the ultimate light and the ultimate healing with the coming of Moshiach very very soon.

Happy Chanukah and Shabbat shalom!

About the Author
Shoshana Judelman is passionate about teaching Torah and Jewish History because connecting to our roots empowers us to live more meaningful lives. To that end, Shoshana teaches shiurim online and in her community, co-leads inspirational trips for women to Ukraine and guides at Yad Vashem. She and her husband, Chaim, and their 6 kids have been living in Efrat since they made Aliya in 2013.
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