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Rabbi Jonathan Ganger
by Published on December 11, 2020

It is not easy to raise children these days. Pressures and distractions abound and parents, armed with time-saving[1] technologies, have no time at all. So what is the solution to these problems? The Talmud suggests that one who lights Shabbat Candles and Channukah candles will have Talmudic sages as children (a dream for any Jewish parent, at least before lawyers and doctors became a viable option). [2] If only it was that simple! And many Jewish women across history have done these two acts and not had saintly children. It seems that it is not the act but imparting to children the deep idea about the symbolism of these two lights that matters- what is it? To begin with, there are two crucial differences between how we use Shabbat candles and a menorah. For one, the ideal location of a menorah is outside for the entire world to see as our goal is to spread news of the miracle. On Shabbat, the candles are placed at home for the people of the house. Secondly, the light of the Shabbat candles must be used practically to keep peace at home as bumping into each other in a darkened room is not a recipe for harmony. On the other hand, the light of the menorah is prohibited to be used for any practical usage, just to look at. Why the difference? Often, light is used as a metaphor for wisdom. Just like light illuminates our reality, so too wisdom. Using that metaphor we can see that there are two types of wisdom in life. There is a practical wisdom to the world that helps us navigate through it. Yet, there is also a wisdom that we can’t use, that is slightly beyond us and we can only marvel at. It is a wisdom that tells you that there is more to know and figure out and there always will be because we are finite human beings. It is this wisdom that we celebrate on Channukah. The Greeks thought the human potential was limitless and could conquer all aspects of wisdom. Granted, that is partially true as there is much wisdom humanity can grasp. But real wisdom also says that there is a different type of wisdom that is slightly beyond us and all we can do is stare with humility. That is what creates great children. They are children that know there is much to know and much they will never know. [1] Based on idea heard from Rabbi Lopiansky [2] Shabbos 23b