June 19, 2020

Shabbat 21


Today’s daf (Shabbat 21b), which outlines laws of kindling Shabbat candles, is also the primary Talmudic source discussing the laws of kindling Chanukah candles, and it is here where we are taught a Beraita informing us of the optimum locations where the chanukah candles should be lit:

‘It is a mitzvah to place the chanukah candles outside the doorways of your house. If you live on an upper floor, then you should place your chanukah candles at their window facing a public thoroughfare. And in a time of danger, you should place your chanukah candles on a table inside their home, and this is sufficient’.

Clearly the three options outlined in this Beraita, describing three different scenarios, speak for themselves. However, I recently saw a beautiful interpretation of this Gemara cited in the Sefer ‘Likutei Batar Likutei’ which I feel has much relevance to us today.

It begins by stating that a primary duty of Judaism is to concern ourselves for the ‘klal’ (the collective public), and it is in this spirit that the Gemara teaches that those who live on a ground floor should ‘place the chanukah candles outside the doorways of your house’ and those who live on an upper floor should ‘place their chanukah candles at their window facing a public thoroughfare’. In both cases this is so that the klal can see and be inspired by their candles.

However, during a time of danger, which is interpreted by the ‘Likutei Batar Likutei’ to mean ‘during a time when it is difficult or dangerous for you to give as much as you would like to others’, then it is sufficient to place the chanukah candles ‘on your table’. By doing so, you are strengthening the ‘prat’ (the individual or individual group) of your family for whom you should all that you can to inspire them in the spirit of Torah & mitzvot.

Baruch Hashem, today’s technology enables us to try and bring some illumination to the klal even from within the confines of our homes. Still, many of us who are used to giving and doing for others beyond our family unit certainly have a palpable sense that something precious is missing in our daily interactions. But in times of danger such as these, we are temporarily called upon to shift our priorities from klal to prat, and when we do so, we shouldn’t dim the light of inspiration that we generally share to others. Instead, we should share it even more with those within our home.

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