Kenneth Brander
President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Ohr Torah Stone

What Happens When Our Best Efforts Fall Short? (Chanukah)

Shabbat Chanukah. We are in the midst of basking in the beautiful light of Chanukah and of our responsibility to try to dispel the darkness in the public thoroughfare of human society.

There are some important messages that we can learn from how our Rabbis tell us how we are to kindle these lights.

As we all know, we are supposed to prepare enough oil, the proper wicks, so that we enjoy the light or we can see the light for half an hour, or have the right size candles to be able to kindle lights for a minimum of a half an hour. (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 672:2)

But what happens if we’ve done our best, yet the light extinguishes in the middle of the half hour?

The halacha is “כבתה”, you’ve done your best, but they’ve extinguished, “אין זקוק לה”, you don’t have to relight them. (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 673:2)

Yes, it’s nice if you want to relight them, but you definitely don’t make a second bracha, and it’s not an obligation, because you’ve done your best.

And from this, we can learn so much regarding our own personal spirituality and the way we engage with our family.

You know, sometimes we are involved in activities to enhance our spirituality: we prepare to go to Israel to enjoy some time basking in the light of Jerusalem or in the State of Israel.

And we prepare everything – we buy the ticket, we pack our luggage – we do everything. But then the skies closed: “כבתה אין זקוק לה”.

Don’t become depressed; it’s frustrating, but as long as we try to kindle the lights, even if our plans are extinguished, we cannot allow that to defeat us.

And this is so much more true when it comes to our raising of our children and our grandchildren.

You know, we work so hard to fill their hearts with the finest of oils and to prepare the proper wicks so they can create a radiant light in the life they will lead.

But sometimes our children or our grandchildren do not follow in our ways. Sometimes their connection with God and Judaism is slightly different or completely different from our perspective.

The halacha is clear: “כבתה אין זקוק לה”. Even when we’ve done our best, there are no guarantees in life. We just have to recognize that we have to love them and we have to nurture them, and we have to try to rekindle the light, but without any form of coercion and always staying connected.

The Chanukah lights remind us about the lights that we light in our own lives and the lights that we light in the lives of our children and our grandchildren.

We have to do our best, and the rest, we need to leave to God.

Chanukah Sameach and Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, an Israel-based network of 32 educational and social action programs transforming Jewish life, living and leadership in Israel and across the world. He is the rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue and founder of the Katz Yeshiva High School. He served as the Vice President for University and Community Life at Yeshiva University and has authored many articles in scholarly journals.
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