This Shabbos we read Parshas Mikaitz. It is also Shabbos Chanukah. As we mark the special holiday of Chanukah, we would like to share the following beautiful thought:
How many candles do we kindle on Chanukah? The Talmud tells us that technically it would suffice to light one candle in the house each night of the Holiday. However, those who beautify the mitzvah have each person in the house light a menorah. Those who beautify it even more change the number of candles being lit every night. How do they change it? Bais Shammai says they go from eight the first night down to one the last night. Bais Hillel, (whose opinion we follow today) says that we go from one the first night up to eight the last night. What is the meaning behind these two ways of lighting the Chanukah candles?
In a beautiful piece, the Sfas Emes explains that Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel are arguing with two different approaches to serving Hashem. Fire, which is what exists in the menorah, has two properties: 1- It destroys; 2 – It gives light. The power fire has to destroy represents the idea of eradicating bad. The power that fire has to give light represents the idea of strengthening good. Bais Shamai, who focus more on strict judgment, emphasize using the holiday of Chanukah to eradicate the evil within ourselves. Therefore we go from a higher number to a lower number of candles, as we get rid of more and more evil. This way there is less and less to perfect before we start doing good. Bais Hillel, who focus more on mercy and kindness, say that we start with doing good and strengthen that. Therefore we build up the number of candles. Even if we have not yet achieved perfection in eradicating the evil within ourselves, we still have to build the good and from that will result the diminishing of all evil.