It once happened that I was walking outside in the darkness of night when I saw a blind man who was walking down the street with a torch in hand. I said to him, “My son, why do you need to have this torch?” He said to me, “Whenever I have the torch in my hand, people see me and they are able to save me from ditches, thorns and briers.”
— Babylonian Talmud, Megila 24a-b
This lesson from the Talmud comes to remind us of something else about the Chanukah lights. They are not just there for our own benefit. The light of hope is there for us to help the hopeless. The light of justice and tolerance is there for us to show others the way to create a more just world. The light of mystical insight is there for us to bring greater meaning and understanding to the lives of others. If we look at the Chanukah lights only for our own benefit, we are making ourselves blind to their most important power.
The light we create at this time of year is a light that is meant to be shared. There are two unique mitzvot associated with this holiday. The first is to kindle the Chanukah lights. That is the mitzvah of creating the light for ourselves. The second mitzvah is pirsum ha-nes, “to make the miracle known.” We put the lit menorah in the window so that everyone who passes by our homes will see it and know of God’s miracles. That is the mitzvah of creating light for others, to give them hope, justice and understanding.
We also must remember that, sometimes, we are the blind man. Sometimes it is we who are groping through the darkness. It is then that we need the assistance of others to help us through life’s difficult ditches, thorns and briers. We hold up the lights of Chanukah as an act of humility that says, when I am in need of help, I am willing to allow others to come and aid me.
Have a happy fifth night of Chanukah!
Other posts on this topic:
What is Chanukah?
The Miracle of the First Day of Chanukah
Season of Miracles, Season of Hope