Rabbi Gershon Avtzon

The holiday of Chanukah is quickly approaching. One of my favorite Chanukah stories is a story concerning a great sage that lit his Menorah and his family noticed that he was staring intently at the candles that were burning. When asked what he was staring at, he replied: I am listening to the stories and messages that the candles are telling. 

The Menorah is not just a Jewish symbol or a relic from an ancient Jewish past. The Menorah, when kindled on the nights of Chanukah, is an active storyteller that is transmitting eternal wisdom and illumination to those who are willing (ready) to take the time to concentrate and listen to the message it is relaying. We all have a flame inside each of us — namely the Jewish soul. This inner flame, when lit, allows us to listen and internalize the story and messages that the Menorah is relaying. 

While I do not know what story the Menorah will be telling us in our homes this year, I would like to share 8 short thoughts — one for each night — basic “Menorah stories-meditations” that we can think about and share with our children and family members. These are timeless messages that our Jewish sages have taught over the generations and remain bright — and relevant — points of light that will help us navigate the concealment and confusion that many of us find ourselves in. 


First night : Think about the power of a single candle; It brings light and illuminates the darkness. One doesn't need to be a famous person, or do a lot, to dispel darkness, just add a single act of goodness and kindness. 


Second night: One must always grow and add in their service of Hashem. While one light was perfect for yesterday, it is not sufficient for today. Because Hashem gave us the gift of another day of life, we must constantly add in the spreading of light. 


Third night: You have One who has lit their candle (soul) and has connected to the “consuming all encompassing fire” of Hashem. It is now time to kindle the soul of a fellow Jew and inspire him/her to light their own personal candle (soul). 


Fourth night: We have reached fifty-percent of the Menorah. Half the Menorah is lit while the second half remains dark. Hear the words of Maimonidies where he instructs (the) every Jew to: “Accordingly, throughout the entire year, a person should always look at themselves himself as equally balanced between merit and sin and the world as equally balanced between merit and sin... by performing one mitzvah, he tips the balance and that of the entire world to the side of merit and brings deliverance and salvation to himself and the entire world others. 


Fifth night: The fifth night can never fall out on Shabbos (Friday night). When Chanukah occurs on days that are even only potentially Shabbos days, the light of Chanukah combines with the light of Shabbat for a powerful illumination. So the fifth night, which can never be on Shabbos, represents darkness relative to the other nights. Thus, the fifth light of Chanukah has the unique task and power to illuminate and instill spirituality on its own even in a time of confusion and darkness. 


Sixth night: Today is Rosh Chodesh / the First Hebrew day of the new Lunar month. Think that the history of the Jewish people can be compared to the moon. Just as the moon always gets renewed, so, too, the Jewish people have survived all threats to our existence and risen to great heights. This is because of our special bond with Hashem, who is the source of all life. 


Seventh night: How beautiful it is to watch the seven candles burning. We can have this special feeling every week by having our wives and daughters light Shabbat candles every Friday night in honor of Shabbos, the seventh day of the week — a day dedicated to Hashem and family. 


Eighth night: We have superseded and surpassed nature (symbolized by the number seven — as in the seven days of the week). We are now ready for the full illuminating light of Moshiach. 

I would like to conclude with a very telling story, told over by Mr. Yehuda Avner, of blessed memory , a diplomat and ambassador of the State of Israel. He went to New York to have a private audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. As the audience was finishing, he turned to the Rebbe and asked: "My candle (soul) – has the Rebbe lit it?" "No," the Rebbe said, clasping my hand. "I have given you the match. Only you can light your candle." 


Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah! 

You can email Rabbi Gerson Avtzon at  lessonsinlife@americanisraelite.com.

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