RAV KOOK ON CHANUKAH: KINDLING THE INDIVIDUAL AND UNIVERSAL LIGHT
The people of Israel are lighting the eight lights of Chanukah everywhere.
The Talmud recounts the original disagreement between the schools of Shammai and Hillel about the proper order of kindling:“Beit Shammai say: On the first day one kindles eight lights and, from there on, gradually decreases. And Beit Hillel say: On the first day one kindles one light, and from there on, gradually increases.” (Shabbat 21b)
Should we light from 8 to 1 or 1 to 8? There is a rich halachic discussion as to the core reason for the dispute and why we follow Beit Hillel’s opinion.
Rav Avraham Itzchak HaCohen Kook ZT’L offered a deep insight that is very relevant to Israel and the world.
He explained that the dispute between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel rests upon two fundamentally different perspectives on the process of rectification and unification.
The Beit Shammai directive to begin with eight different lights and reduce until there is only one implies that shalom-peace and shleimut-wholeness will come through the different ways merging into one way that is practiced by all.
On the other hand, Beit Hillel teaches that we must increase the number of lights until we light eight unique lights. This perspective implies that rectification and wholeness requires the multiplicity of individual lights. Each of us is invited and required to kindle our unique light in order to help fully illuminate the world. The world becomes more illuminated as more individual lights are kindled. We are not here to be the same; we are here to shine the light of our unique soul into the world. Thus we contribute to the overall light.
And yet the blessing preceding the kindling is that we are lighting the ner-light of Chanukah, not the nerot-lights of Chanukah. Rav Kook explains that this teaches us that we must understand that all the different lights are actually parts of the one great light of existence.
“The uniqueness of the inner soul, in its own authenticity, is the highest expression of the seed of divine light…from which will bud and blossom the fruit of the tree of life…Let everyone express truthfully whatever their soul reveals to them…Out of such sparks torches of light will be assembled. They will illuminate the whole world…Out of each fragment of inner truth will the great truth emerge.” (Orot HaKodesh 1:177,168)
May each of us be blessed to kindle and shine our soul’s light fully. And thus illuminate all humankind and existence.
BeMhera BeYamenu-Quickly In Our Days.
Chag Orot Sameach-A Joyful Festival of Lights to all.