Shabbos vs. Chanuka

Nov 24, 2014

Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l
(paraphrased from Emet L’Yaakov vol. 3, Miketz – from R’ Yaakov’s notes for a drasha he gave on Shabbos Chanuka Parshas Miketz)

We are commanded to light two different types of candles: Shabbos (& Yom Tov) and Chanuka. The two are radically different. It is prohibited to use the Chanuka candles, even to learn Torah or do mitzvas to their light. Shabbos candles are, on the other hand, made for use – it is actually essential that they be used in the home. This halakhic distinction is tied to their very different functions. Because the purpose of the Chanuka candles is to clearly publicize the miracle (pirsum haneis) of the Menora in the Temple they cannot be used for any other purpose. Shabbos candles are exactly the opposite — made for shalom bayis, peace in the home, they are, by definition, for use.

When there is a conflict between Shabbos and Chanuka candles the gemara clearly rules that Shabbos candles take precedence. Why is this this the case? Chanuka candles are a vehicle for publicizing the Divine Providence and Divine omnipotence that express themselves through miracles – isn’t that of paramount importance?

Shabbos candles are part of enjoying Shabbos, which unites the physical and the spiritual, Heaven and earth. Chanuka candles only show how G-d influences the physical world; but through Shabbos candles we unite the physical and the spiritual ourselves.

The whole concept of oneg Shabbos is difficult to understand. How can eating, drinking, and sleeping on Shabbos – physical pleasures – be mei’ein olam haba, a miniature version of the totally spiritual World to Come? It must be that the worlds are connected together, so when we eat on Shabbos we are at the same time involved in its spiritual component. Everything earthly is totally tied to something Heavenly.

This was the way of our Avos, the forefathers, who saw the Divine side and brought the Name of G-d into all of their earthly affairs. The conversation of Yosef with Pharaoh is very striking in this respect. The moment Pharaoh begins to speak to him about his dream, Yosef brings G-d into the picture. “I heard you can interpret dreams,” is followed with, “It is not me – G-d will respond to the peace of Pharaoh.” Afterwards: “What G-d is doing He is showing to Pharoah.” He so obviously and clearly related to the Divine side of events that the blasphemous Pharoah was forced to himself acknowledge G-d – “Can you find another such man who so has the spirit of G-d within him?”

This expresses a basic principle of Judaism: the physical and spiritual are totally intertwined.

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