Vayeshev - Erev Chanukah
By Rabbi Label Lam
Parshas Vayeshev - Erev Chanukah - - How Extrordinary The Result
One who is accustomed with a candle will have children who are Talmud
This refers to the candles of Shabbos and the candles of Chanukah...(Rashi)
The candle is a Mitzvah and Torah is light... (Proverbs)
The Maharal from Prague explained that the candle is, in the language of
symbolism, representative of the whole world. He explains the statement
paraphrased in the following way: "One who is accustomed to looking at the
whole world as a candle..." What does it mean to "look at the whole world
like a candle."
The components of a basic candle are the oil, the wick, and the
vessel. The oil is the energy source that requires continuous
replenishment where as the other two may be fixed cost investments, so to
speak. As the Mitzvah candle of Shabbos or Chanukah burn down and the
flames are dancing their last we might be tempted to ask ourselves, "What
has been gained or what is accomplished through this exercise of
lighting? The good oil is gone the money is spent but what actually remains?"
The Maharal states that although the oil has been consumed the light
generated from the candle continues to run its eternal course. It goes on
forever. What have we accomplished by performing a Mitzvah? Not only
symbolically, but in reality, we have taken a piece of this temporal world
and unlocked its eternal essence.
Therefore when one is in the business of "looking at the entire world like
it is a candle", the whole world is seen as being packed with endless
spiritual potential. Any item, each person, and every moment is dense with
The great sage Reb Yochanan was taking a ritual bath in the river when
Reish Lakish who was a gangster type leapt across the expanse of the river
to steal the bathing Rabbi’s possessions. When Reb Yochanan saw the
athletic prowess of this criminal he didn't shout "thief" but rather
declared, "Your power should be used for Torah!"
When Reish Lakish saw the beauty of the Rabbi's countenance he retorted
that it's a shame that such beauty is wasted on a man. "It is more fitting
for you to be a woman." Reb Yochanan answered once more to the thieving
Reish Lakish, "If you think I am so beautiful, I have a sister who is even
more beautiful and if you commit yourself to learning Torah then I will
give her to you for a wife." Reish Lakish, in one astonishing moment
agreed and in time became a great scholar and a dearly beloved colleague of
Reb Yochanan was in the middle of being mugged but he was less affected by
the present danger than by the tragic vision of such misappropriated
greatness. That’s one way to "look at the world like a candle".
Another application is when we pay good money or invest precious time in
Mitzvos like Jewish Education or Charity, it's worth knowing that long
after the classes are over or the money spent something greater persists.
When buying Tefillin for my oldest son, in order to include him in the
process I told him that there were two different pairs that I was
considering for purchase. One cost $1,200.00 the other $1,000.00. He asked
me with deep sincerity which one I had ordered. I told him that I had
chosen the more expensive pair. I'll never forget the look on his face. If
a look could hug.. It was not only the money, though.
Here was a Mitzvah item he would be using almost every day for his entire
life. By trying to save a few bucks on it his appreciation of the Mitzvah
would have been greatly diminished. Withholding precious drops of oil
implies the investment is not worth the potential yield. That attitude
sabotages the result creating a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
How great is then is the statement of the sages and how wise the one who
actually "looks at the whole world as a candle" and how extraordinary the
Text Copyright © 2000 Rabbi Label Lam and
Project Genesis, Inc.