(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139:6) “The custom in our country is to do as the ‘mehadrin l’mehadrin’—in the most scrupulous way. Everyone lights. On the first night, we light one candle, and on the second night tw,o and we add each night until we have all lit eight candles.”
Reb Nosson of Breslov writes in his Likutei Halachos that the flame of the Chanukah candles represent the fire of yiras shomayim—fear of heaven. Although fear normally diminishes one’s life, the fear of Hashem is different. As the verse says: “The fear of G-d adds to one’s days.” (Mishlei 10:27) This echoes the Vilna Gaon’s commentary on the verse. For this reason, if one’s fear of Hashem leads to worry and despair, it is a clear sign that this is not true fear of G-d. True yiras Hashem is called yirah l’chaim—“awe that enhances one’s life and spiritual vitality.”
This means that it brings one to feel joy. We can obtain this type by focusing on the good and not the bad. If one learns the importance of not talking slander, he can worry about it all day or he can thank Hashem for each time he didn’t speak slander and realize that the main purpose for the warnings against the habit is to encourage us to refrain. This is by our realizing that if doing it is so bad, refraining from it is that much more important and worthy of joy.
We light a new candle every day to teach that we must increase our devotion and longing every day. This is true yirah l’chaim. Through this, one is full of life and vitality. “The fear of G-d adds to one’s days!”
(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139:7) “The mitzvah of Chanukah is to light the menorah in the doorway closest to the public domain in order to publicize the miracle. This was the custom during the time of the sages. Nowadays, since we dwell among the non-Jews, we light inside. One should light at their window if they have one.” [In
, the custom
of most is to light outside]. Israel
This halachah can be understood in the light of the Likutei Halachos. The Greeks and Hellenists tried to overcome us with tremendous brazenness. The Chashmonaim had to have even more chutzpah to challenge the strongest army of ancient times with a miniscule fraction of their strength. This is always how it is. The inner and outer forces of evil try to overcome the good with incredible brazenness and we need even stronger chutzpah to overcome them. This is what the miracle of the Chanukah lights represent.
And this is why it is best to light it in the most visible place available. We are not ashamed before anyone. Unless there is an actual danger, we should light in the most publicly visible manner. Rebbe Nachman, zt”l, writes that one achieves holy chutzpah through happiness. Happiness is not only inside. If one is truly happy, it will show on the outside. Someone who seems gloomy really is in a bad frame of mind—the inner and outer states are connected. Our happiness and joy should overflow into the lives of our families, friends, and everyone with whom we come into contact. This is also something we learn from placing the Chanukah lights in the most noticeable place. The light of our holy joy which enables us to have true chutzpah when it comes to opposing our evil inclination should uplift everyone who come into contact with us!
(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139:8) “It is a mitzvah to place the lights above three tefachim and below ten. If one placed them above ten tefachim, he nevertheless fulfills his obligation.”
Reb Nosson writes in his Likutei Halachos that Chanukah draws down an illumination from the future times of Moshiach every year to encourage even the most distant Jew. This light is to be discovered in the teachings of the tzaddikim, and by learning their works, even the most distant Jew is encouraged to trust in Hashem, start fresh, and keep trying until he merits true holiness and joy. This explains why it is a mitzvah to arrange his lights at a height between three and ten tefachim.
The truth is that anyone who wishes can draw incredible encouragement from the miracle of Chanukah itself. At the time of the miracle, we were not in the healthiest spiritual condition as a people. Even so, Hashem delivered us from our enemies and made the menorah burn for eight days to demonstrate that, no matter what our spiritual state may be, if we only wish to we can begin again and achieve closeness with Hashem. Since the candles represent Hashem helping even those who are spiritually weak, they should be set up below ten tefachim. Our Rabbis teach that the Shechinah never descended to the final ten tefachim of airspace above the earth. Those ten tefachim represent all of the places to which people fall, where they feel exiled from the nourishing and illuminating influence of the Divine presence. When the candles are lit there, those “places” receive an infusion of Hashem’s light.
Even so, the lights must be at least three tefachim off the ground. This symbolizes a fresh start. This represents a commitment to not “lying down” and giving up completely. At the very least, one must have the minimal “three tefachim” of motivation to make a fresh start. When we do what we can, Hashem draws the light of Chanukah upon us and we bask in His warmth.
(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139:9) “One should separate the candles so that they not melt down from their own heat. If one filled a bowl with oil and placed wicks in it, and if he covered it with a vessel, each wick counts like one candle. If one did not cover it with a vessel, it cannot count as even a single candle since this will surely become a conflagration.”
The Zohar Hakadosh writes that a raging fire represents evil. This is because one who does evil often cannot contend with his evil urge, which is similar to a blazing fire. This is why we cannot use a hearth fire or the like for Chanukah. Rebbe Nachman, zt”l, taught that there are two types of light. One is called me’orei eish, which means “illuminating bodies of fire,” or the raging fire associated with evil. The other is called me’orei ohr, or “illuminating bodies of light”—a balanced and holy illumination. We must yearn to achieve the holy and reject the unholy. All our troubles are caused by our lack of true understanding. We can achieve understanding through having a connection to someone who does possess true understanding. This is why having a connection to someone without fear of heaven is so detrimental—he is a detour from arriving at true understanding!
The Gemara writes that for one with da’as or holy awareness, it is as though the Beis Hamikdash has already been rebuilt. One who has the true balance of holy illumination acts in a deliberate and considered way. Even if he makes a mistake, he will immediately repent and start again. He knows that we are here for a limited time only and that we have a purpose. One who lacks this balanced perspective is always falling and rarely repents; he is far from embarking on the path to change.
For this same reason we may not place the candles too close together. If they melt down in a blaze we have not discharged our obligation. If our Chanukah lights converge into me’orei eish—by becoming a conflagration—they represent the unholy burning for materialism or honor without any higher goal. We light individual candles to represent the balanced illumination of a light which does not damage but illuminates—the light of true understanding. (Based on Mekor Chaim and Likutey Halachos)
(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139:10) “One lights the menorah at nightfall and not later.”
Reb Nosson of Breslov writes in his Likutei Halachos that the time when the me’orei eish (see Spirit of the Law: Chanukah #9) dominate is the night. This is because the night represents lack of clarity and confusion. How we feel and behave at times of uncertainly tell us a lot about where we are really holding. One who is truly internalizing and deepening his connection to Hashem will find that what used to be an insurmountable test will stop being a challenge. This is a sure sign that we are increasing our connection to holy illumination and moving away from unholiness. This is a balance; the more understanding we have, the more we slowly are distanced from unholy thoughts and deeds. Since the me’orei eish are associated with “dark times,” we do not light before the sun sets. (This is only if we have a choice. On erev Shabbos we light early since we have no choice, but we must place enough oil in the vessel to last until half an hour after dark. This is symbolic of the fact that the great descending light of erev Shabbos affords us an opportunity to “light the darkness” ahead of time and perform the proper rectification for the night that is to come.)