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Hanukkah: When light from above descends into our living rooms

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Yesterday at 5:10 in the evening I put my cell phone aside, charging it in quiet mode. We began to light the Hanukkah candles. After the children had also finished lighting and had sung "Haneirot Hallalu" and "Maoz Tzur," I discovered that it was already 5:55. 45 magical moments had passed. I checked my cell phone and I saw that I had 52 messages waiting on WhatsApp. More than one message per minute.

There is an ancient custom not to perform work after the candles are lit. For our generation, it seems to me, this custom is more important than sufganiyot and dreidels. It's a piece of Shabbat in the middle of an ordinary day. It's an opportunity to remind ourselves that the light of the Hanukkah candles shines brighter than the light of a computer screen. Rebbe Pinchas of Koritz, one of the originators of the Chasidic movement, once said: "On Hanukkah, at the time of the lighting of the candles, hidden light descends from above, and therefore every person must sit by his candles after lighting them for a full half hour" (the minimum time required to watch the candles).

It's not just about a match and a candle. A magnificent light descends into our living rooms, next to the window or the door, and we need to receive it appropriately. According to Chasidic wisdom, it is our obligation to listen to what the candles are telling us. To this end, we must remain silent, let go, and not run form place to place, from task to task, but rather focus on the chanukiya, and allow the flames to speak to us.

You are invited to try this tonight, while lighting the candles. Happy Hanukkah.


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