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A Lifting Light

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg Ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the Sefer, Fascinating Insights: Torah Perspectives On Unique Topics. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

A Lifting Light

Throughout Hilchos Chanuka we see the emphasis of putting light in places that don’t contain spiritual light.

1) The Menora is placed less than 10 טפחים high which is where the Shechina doesn’t rest.[1]

2) The Menora is placed on the left side.[2] This represents the side of טומאה[3] as the שטן is called סמאל, the same word as שמאל, left.[4] Lighting on the left side is putting the light in a place of טומאה. With this we can fulfill ימין ושמאל תפרוצי (in לכה דודי): to spread Kedusha to the right and left side as the Mezuza is on the right side and נר חנוכה on the left.[5] Then, ואת ה’ תעריצי: we will exalt Hashem. In fact, the term שמאל is a contraction of שם א-ל, there is Hashem, as we need to spread Kedusha even there.

3) The Gemara instructs us that the נר חנוכה should be placed by the doorway of one’s house from the outside. If he lives on an upper floor it should be placed in a window that is adjacent to רשות הרבים, public domain.[6]  רשות הרבים is a place of טומאה as it contains the impure outside influences as well as being out in the open,  the opposite of צניעות, modesty. This is in contrast to רשות היחיד which is the domain of Hashem, יחידו של עולם.[7] In a similar vein, this is what is meant in עד שתכלה רגל מן השוק:[8] to get rid of the negative outside influences.

4) The Gemara teaches the wicks and oils that we may not kindle on Shabbos, we may kindle on Chanuka.


Just as the candles of Chanuka puts light in the impure places, it also puts light into the lowest of Jews. This is how the Tiferes Shlomo[9] explains “the wicks and oils that we may not kindle on Shabbos, we may kindle on Chanuka”: those that are not lit up from Shabbos can get lit up from Chanuka. This is because when we light the candles of Chanuka, we are lighting up our Neshama as it says נשמת אדם נר ה’, the spirit of man is the candle of Hashem.[10] Therefore, נפש forms an acronym of נר, פתיל, שמן.[11]  The נר חנוכה should be placed by the doorway of one’s house from the outside. This also means that on Chanuka that those Neshamos that are on the outside are lit up. In this way we can grasp why even a עני המתפרנס מן הצדקה, poor person should be very careful with lighting Chanuka lights,[12] as עני refers to אין עני אלא בדעת,[13] the real poor person is one impoverished of understanding, referring to the Jews that are low. The Chidushai Harim explains מי שאמר לשמן וידלוק…,[14] the one who said oil should light can let vinegar light, in the following way. חומץ, vinegar, refers to lowly people as in מעול וחומץ, unrighteous and cruel man.[15] Just as Hashem commanded us to light oil, similarly with חומץ Neshamos, as Hashem lights up those Neshamos.


This is really what Chanuka is as it has been said זאת חנוכה means this is what Chanuka truly is! The Krias Hatorah of זאת חנוכה is about the בני מנשה who are called so because כי נשני, to forget.[16] This refers to the forgotten Neshamos. His Nasi is גמליאל בן פדהצור, meaning those low Neshamos. That is to say, גמליאל is a contraction of גם לי א-ל, these Jews are also for Hashem whereas פדהצור is a contraction of פדה צור, Hashem redeems them. Consequently, מנשה is composed of the same letters as נשמה.

[1] Orach Chaim 671:6. Succa 5a.

[2] Shabbos 22a, Orach Chaim 671:7. See Melachim 2, 23:8. שמן forms an acronym of נר שמאל מדליקין as we light from left to right.

[3] We also see this by the ערבות, which represents the Jew without Torah and מעשים טובים, which is placed to the left of the לולב.

[4] The ס and ש are interchangeable as in Shemos 25:5, 33:22.

[5] This is alluded at the outset of Parshas Mikeitz as שנתים are the first letters of שמאל נר תדליק ימין מזוזה.

[6] Shabbos 21b. Orach Chaim 671:5. see Tanya end of 33.

[7] By Esav it says נפשות, plural (Breishis 36:6), in contrast to Yaakov where it says שבעים נפש, singular (Shemos 1:5, see 46:26, Rashi). Additionally, Avoda Zara is called אלהים אחרים, plural whereas Hashem is referred to as ה’ אחד (see Breishis 1:5, Rashi).

[8] Shabbos 21b. This is the time for lighting Chanuka candles (Literally it translates as until the passerby vanishes from the market).

[9] In השמטה לחנוכה. Shabbos 21b.

[10] Mishlei 20:27. In a slightly different way we can understand it as follows: the Pasuk states ה‘ צלך, Hashem is our shadow. Hence, when we light the Chanuka light Hashem lights נר ה‘ נשמת אדם.

[11] The Nekuda known as a Cholam is the only one that is in the air since it represents a dream. Therefore, the word חולם consists of the same letters as חלום, dream. The light of נר חנוכה resembles a חולם as the ו appears as the candle and the dot above it as the flame. This hints to us that we should dream by the נר חנוכה (In the name of the Chida). For this reason, Chanuka coincides with Parshas Miketz, the Parsha about dreams. Let us dream of the person we desire to become, the life we want to lead and the like.

[12] Orach Chaim 671:1.

[13] Nedarim 41a.

[14] Taanis 25a.

[15] Tehillim 71:4. שיחות בעבודת ה’, Sicha 6.

[16] Bamidbar 7:54. The פכים קטנים that Yaakov went back for refers to the פך שמן of Chanuka. On a deeper level this means the low Neshamos.

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