Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
Chanuka - Teach Your Children Well
Published: Monday, December 9, 2019 11:03:13 PM
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Crosby Stills and Nash had a number one hit song called “Teach Your Children Well.” Were they singing about the Festival of Chanuka? Because the Talmud Shabbat 23 states, “One who is careful about Chanuka lights will have children who are Torah scholars.” Rashi explains this enigmatic passage referring to the verse in Mishlei 6 which states, “A candle is a Mitzva and the Torah is light.” On the basis of this Mitzva of the Chanuka candles, the light of Torah will illuminate us and our children.

However, Rashi does not explain why. To answer this question, we will ask another. Some of the laws of Chanuka seem strange. For example, a poor person is required to light the Menora, even if this entails begging from door to door to get money to purchase the oil and wicks.

This is not so for any other Mitzva, where one is not obligated to spend more than 20 percent of one’s assets to fulfill the Mitzva. Why is there such a tremendous stress on the lighting of the Chanuka candles? How can it be that the Mitzva of Chanuka, which is only Rabbinic, requires one to spend all his money to observe it? How can it be that by observing this Mitzva we will have worthy and learned children?

To answer these questions, we must face a simple reality – candles burn out. It was a miracle that the oil lasted for a week longer than expected. The Menora of the Beit Hamikdash had to be tended and refueled daily. When the little amount of oil lasted for eight days, it was a miracle. This seems like such an obvious fact, but it often passes us by.

The Mitzva of Chanukah is so precious and important because it reminds us of this elementary fact of life – we must constantly provide fuel if we expect candles to burn. This fact is also true regarding the Light of Torah. Whatever is true in the physical world is certainly true in the spiritual world. Chanuka teaches that in matters of spirituality there is no status quo. If we are not progressing spiritually, we are automatically regressing.

This is what Shlomo Hamelech meant in Mishlei, “The candle of G-d is the soul of the human being.” Just as a candle needs constant refueling in order to give light, so too the G‑dly soul needs the constant nourishing Light of Torah.

Chanuka is related to the word CHINUCH – education, teaching and dedication. Our existence as a people depends on proper CHINUCH – education and communicating our beliefs, values, observances, and feelings on a constant and continual basis.

Chanuka reminds us to light the candles and to REFUEL our soul with Mitzvot. This festival reminds us that we must be involved daily in growing and progressing spiritually.

Therefore, the Talmud tells us that if we are careful about the Mitzva of Chanuka, our children will be Torah scholars. Perhaps the reason now becomes clear, because our children will understand what the meaning of constant commitment to Torah Judaism is all about. “For a candle is a Mitzvah, and the Torah is Light.” As Rashi explains, on the basis of the Mitzva of Chanuka, the Light of Torah will illuminate all the members of our household.

Chanuka teaches us that we need a constant refueling of Torah and Mitzvot in order that our soul will shine forever. As John Lennon famously sang “WE ALL SHINE ON!”

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