The Luminous and Numinous Light of Chanukah

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November 29 2021

It’s fascinating to note that we find several connections between the light of the menorah and the creation of the world. Let’s cite a few examples.

On Chanukah we light a total of 36 candles if following mehadrin min hamehadrin. The Rokeach explains the significance of the 36 total candles as corresponding to the 36 hours that Adam benefited from the special light of creation. Chazal teach that this primordial light was subsequently hidden for the tzadikim in the future. 

In addition, the 25th word in the Torah is אור. The context of this word is in the description of Hashem’s creation of light. The Sefer Hatoda’ah expounds on this and suggests that this is a hint to the light of the Chanukah menorah, which commences on the 25th day of Kislev. Furthermore, the light of the menorah illuminates a darkness hinted at in the pasuk of v’choshech al p’nei tehom, darkness over the surface of the deep (the second pasuk in the Torah discussing creation), which the Midrash says is a reference to the dark period of the Greek oppression that took place in the leadup to the Chanukah story. 

Moreover, the Shlah Hakadosh points out that the gematria of "יהי" in the creation of light (יהי אור) on the first day of the universe is 25, underscoring yet another connection between Chanukah and creation. He adds that just as the light of creation was restricted from our use, so too the light of the menorah of Chanukah was restricted from personal use.

How do we explain all these connections? Is there some deeper connection that binds Chanukah to creation?

The Sefas Emes suggests that the light of the menorah is in fact a continuation of the light of creation! When Hashem hid the original light of creation, it can be found, in part, inside the light of Chanukah. For this reason, says the Sefas Emes, one should rejoice extra on the days of Chanukah, days that we can access this primordial light.

Considering this, we can explain why so many traces of the light of Chanukah are contained in the world’s creation, specifically in the creation of the first light.

Perhaps we can add an idea to this and offer the following explanation. We are taught that the very first day of creation, the day that Hashem also created light, was the 25th day of Elul, six days before Rosh Hashanah. We also find in the writings of Chazal that creation is referred to as birth; Hashem, so to speak, gave birth to the world. 

Based on the comparison of creation to birth, homiletically we can suppose that there was also a period of pregnancy leading up to the world’s birth. In this understanding, conception of the world would be nine months prior to the 25th of Elul. This would be precisely the 25th of Kislev. In other words, the very beginning of creation, the moment of conception of this world, is the first day of Chanukah!

This would be another explanation of why the day of Chanukah is so spiritually charged, as Hashem, k’viyachol, began the first steps of creation and the illumination of this heavenly light on this day. Based on this, we can say that Chanukah is not rooted in creation as the Sefas Emes suggests, but rather creation is rooted in Chanukah! This would explain all the connections we mentioned above.

The significance of this last idea is quite great. Chanukah is a time when we can tap into this enormous power and spirit. It is a time to consider our future, a time to sow the seeds for bringing ourselves and the entire world to a more sublime space.


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    Learning on the Marcos and Adina Katz YUTorah site is sponsored today by the Gabe, Gewirtz and Richman Families in commemoration of the first yahrtzeit of נחמיה זאב בן אהרן ועטיל גייב