Monday, December 29, 2008

Spirit of the Law: Chanukah #19

(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139:19) “If one is away from home and his wife lights for him at home, he should light where he is as well without a blessing. If he is certain that no one is lighting for him at home, he can either light for himself or pay the host where he is staying to add to their oil and wicks on his behalf.” (Some say not to actually add oil, but that he merely pays a share.)
The Mekor Chaim, zt”l, explains that a guest represents the extra soul-level that can become manifest within the “host” since the arrival of every guest brings a special opportunity to advance spiritually. For this reason, the Midrash states that the host receives more from the guest than the guest from his host. This is similar to the neshamah yeseirah—the extra portion of soul—that we receive on Shabbos. Of course, only those who desire it and prepare for it are able to tap into it and experience it. One of the ways that we prepare to receive this influx is by “remembering Shabbos all week long,” as the Yerushalmi prescribes.
On each day of Chanukah, we receive a special “guest-soul” similar to Shabbos. The only difference is that this special guest comes only once a year and we receive it on most days through the lighting of the menorah and reciting the Hallel of each day.
If a person is worthy of experiencing the effects of the arrival of his soul-guest, he feels inspired in a particular limb. It may be in his heart, in which case will feel great love for Hashem. Or he may receive such an illumination in his head, which will give him a deep understanding of a Torah concept that may have been difficult for him to understand before.
Receiving such an illumination from the extra soul-portion of Chanukah is the deeper meaning of our halachah, that the guest can either light for himself or contribute to the expansion of the host’s lighting. If the host feels an impression from his guest, he should begin fresh because of this feeling—this is “the guest lighting for himself.” If the host doesn’t really feel anything, this means that he is “in the dark” about the gift that has come his way. Nevertheless, he must at least do what little he can (represented by the guest’s minimal contribution to “expand the light” in the host’s home) despite the fact that he does not yet feel the deep holiness of Chanukah. In this way, he arouses this soul in an aspect of the Talmudic principle: “One who comes to purify himself is helped from on high.” Feeling the light of the extra soul-portion that visits us all on Chanukah is the manner in which Hashem helps us. We must do what we can, and Hashem does the rest!

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