Through The Eyes of a Woman
Chanukah: Light a Lamp for a Friend in the Dark
Mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice, for those who are not so familiar with
the term) does not only mean that you were burned at the stake during the Spanish
Inquisition. It also means sacrificing your own wishes and desires in order to do
what HaShem asks of you. How do you know what HaShem wants from you
right now? The Rebbeim have instructed us to do what He wants us to do. Determination
to carry out the will of HaShem, without letting anything deter you, that
is mesirus nefesh, which can also be translated as devoting your soul.
This type of mesirus nefesh is what brought about the miracles of Chanukah.
One of the laws of Chanukah is that you should light the chanukiah (Chanukah
Menorah) where passersby can see its light, in order to publicize the miracles
that took place during Chanukah. Now, the custom has become to light inside, and
not outside the door, as the Gemara says we ought to (there are many explanations
as to why we light the candles inside specifically, but we cannot go into them now).
This is one of the reasons that the Rebbe instituted the idea of public Menorah
lighting -- so that we are able to fulfill the mitzvah of publicizing
the miracles of Chanukah in a big way.
Nevertheless, you have to do your part -- in a big way, in a small
way, but the world around you has to become brighter and lighter and more Jewish
because of you. This is symbolized by the Chanukah candles. In our world today,
there are still Jews who don't think only about maintaining their own observance
of mitzvos and their own Torah learning. They are aware that there are other
Jews around. Not, "I don't care about the rest of the world, as long as I'm ok."
That is totally against the whole story of Chanukah. The story about Chanukah is
to care and to worry about the fact that out there in the street there is somebody
who is groping in the dark. If you know something about Yiddishkeit and he
knows less than you, you have an obligation to share your light with him. As you
know, when someone else also benefits from the light, it does not reduce your share.
There is another point: "You don't drive away darkness with a stick," as the
chassidic aphorism states. The Rebbe has always emphasized that when you're trying
to be mekarev another Jew and bring him closer to Yiddishkeit, you
don't use a stick until he agrees to become more observant. Perhaps you will get
the person to do a mitzvah by threatening him with all the dire punishments
mentioned in the Torah and the writings of our Sages, but that's not the preferred
way, and it is very doubtful that it will be effective. Those people who stand on
the corner and throw stones and shout "Shabbos," do they really think they're
going to instill in the driver a love for Shabbos, so that next Shabbos
he's not going to drive? Is that really going to create a change in the number of
people who desecrate Shabbos? The right way is through peace and through
love and through light. "A little light dispels a lot of darkness." You just have
to light a candle and immediately the darkness disappears. That's the way of
Yiddishkeit. When one shines and is friendly and shares Yiddishkeit with
another Jew, he will see that the darkness will melt away.