Listening To The Candles
"Come on, Yankie," urged his younger brother Yehudah as the Stern
family finished singing HaNeiros Hallalu. "Let's play dreidel."
"Wait a minute, Yehudah," Mr. Stern said, pulling some chairs over to
the menorah. "First, let's listen to what the candles are saying."
"But Daddy," protested four-year-old Shifi, "Candles can't talk!"
Mr. Stern sat Shifi on his lap as the other children gathered around.
"On Chanukah, the Previous Rebbe would tell his chassidim that they
should listen to what the candles are telling them. He meant that we
should think about the mitzvah we have just performed, and learn the
many lessons that the Chanukah candles teach us. Did you know that all
the mitzvos are called 'candles'?"
"Yes," answered Yankie. "We learned that the Torah is called 'light'
and every mitzvah which we do is like a lamp or a candle which brings
more of HaShem's holiness into this world."
"Very good, Yankie. But there is something very special about the
mitzvah of the Chanukah candles. You see, as we fulfill mitzvos such
as wearing tzitzis, washing our hands, and eating kosher, we don't
always sense how HaShem's light is brightening up the world. But
watching the flickering candles makes it much easier to understand
that mitzvos light up the world, because we can actually see the
Little Shifi tugged at her father's arm. "Daddy, you keep saying
candles, but these aren't really candles. They are cups with oil and
cotton. In kindergarten, we had real candles. There was a red one and
a blue one and a green one."
Mr. Stern smiled. "It's okay to use regular wax candles like you did
in school, but in many Jewish homes all over the world the menorah is
lit with oil and wicks."
"And not just any oil," added Yehudah. "We use pure olive oil just
like the kohanim used in the Beis HaMikdash. Our teacher told us that
this is 'mitzvah min hamuvchar' - a better way to keep the mitzvah."
"Actually," explained Mr. Stern, "It's more than mitzvah min
hamuvchar. We keep this mitzvah, mehadrin min hamehadrin - the very
"First, like Yehudah said, we're using the best oil. Second, it would
be enough to light one menorah for the whole family, but we have
everyone light his own. Third, we're adding a new light every day.
"You see, it would be enough to light only one candle each day, but
the best way to do the mitzvah is to light two on day two, three on
day three and so on.
"And we are eager to do this mitzvah the very best way - mehadrin min
hamehadrin - every single day. We don't say 'We did it so well
yesterday, we don't have to do it so perfectly today.'
"This is exactly what the Maccabees did. They were determined to use
pure olive oil which was untouched by the Greeks. According to
halachah, they could have used less-perfect oil, but because they
strived for the best, HaShem helped them and made a miracle with the
"By the way, Daddy," Yehudah suddenly remembered. "What about Chanukah
gelt? And I hope you'll be mehadrin with me because I helped mommy
today. Don't I deserve a bonus for helping?"
"Yehudah!" Yankie reprimanded his little brother. "You haven't been
listening to the candles! We are not allowed to use or enjoy the light
of the candles. We only light them because HaShem says we should. This
teaches us to do mitzvos because HaShem says so, and not in order to
get something out of it."
"Look at the candles," Shifi called. "They look like they're twinkling
at us, because they're so happy we listened to what they have to say!"
(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vols. I and V, Chanukah)