Today’s daf (Beitzah 32b) informs us of a halacha that we may be מוחט a wick on Yom Tov – which is explained to mean that it is permitted to remove the burnt charcoaled section of a wick to make a lamp shine more brightly.

Interestingly, when codifying this halacha, the Rambam (Shevitat Yom Tov 4:3) writes that one may ‘flick the top of the wick with one’s hand [to remove the charred portion]’ – which suggests that what is being permitted is only a form of indirect hand action to remove charcoal residue.

Contrasting this, the Ra’avad says that the word מוחט is related to the word מחט (meaning needle/pin) – meaning that he believes that a utensil may be used to do so.

And while the Mishna Berura suggests that the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 514:10) can be understood either way in terms of whether this may be done by hand or with a utensil, he then adds that it is not customary to do either.

Yet notwithstanding this debate, what we see in this halacha is that sometimes we need to remove things to help a candle or lamp burn brighter, and that the act of taking something away is, on occasion, an act which adds rather than subtracts, and thereby helps bring more light to the world.