Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Chanukah

If God didn’t command us to light Chanukah candles – who did?

During the festival of Chanukah, we kindle the lights with much joy and recite the Beracha, Asher Kidishanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanuh Lehadlik Ner Shel Chanukah, ‘Blessed you Hashem who has commanded us with a precept to light the Chanukah candles’.

Now where is there such a commandment? Usually, such a Beracha is recited for Mitzvot in the Torah, but the Torah preceded the miracle of Chanukah by many hundreds of years.

Actually, this Beracha for the Chanukah lights is not alone in this regard. There are 6 other Berachot which we recite in similar vein. For example, Al Mikrah Megillah – upon the reading of the Megillah; Likroh Et Ha’Hallel – to recite Hallel on Rosh Chodesh; and also Al Netillat Yadayim – nowhere in the Torah are we told to wash our hands before meals. Similarly, the blessing over lighting the candles for Shabbat and for Yom Tov; a Blessing over Eiruv; a blessing before we enjoy something in this world.

Now actually, the explanation for this is as follows; the Torah gives us as a command – Lo Tassur Min Hadavar Asher Yagidu Lecha Yamin U’Smoel, ‘Do not deviate either to the right or to the left from the instructions of your Rabbis’.

It was our Rabbis, Chazal, who innovated these precepts and they are elevated to become just like the Mitzvot of the Torah. So the Mitzvah ‘Asher Kidishanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanuh’ that is being referred to, is to listen to the instructions and to follow the guidance of our spiritual leaders.

A very powerful message emerges from this. Hashem, in setting out this Taryag Mitzot, the 613 commandments, created a space for our Rabbis to add 7 Mitzvot. Hashem wanted to provide that opportunity for people to inspire, guide and bring light into the lives of other people.

Similarly, we too should always strive to see how we can enhance the lives of others, provide guidance and inspiration for them and bring light always into their lives.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Orim Sameach

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