Sharing Torah Insights

The Importance of Appearances

Posted on ל׳ בכסלו ה׳תש״ע (December 17, 2009) | in Chanukkah | by

In Massechet Shabbat (22a), the Gemarrah records a debate between Rav and Shmuel whether or not one can use an already lit Chanukkah candle to light another one of the candles. Rav says that one cannot light another candle, while Shmuel permits it.

In analyzing this debate, the Gemarrah wants to know the reason for Rav’s prohibition. If the reason is Bizzui Mitzvah (disgracing the Mitzvah) there would be no prohibition against lighting one Chanukkah candle from another, as both candles are being used for a Mitzvah. According to Rav, the only prohibition would be lighting another non-Chanukkah candle from the Chanukkah candles.

If, however, the reason is because of Acchushei Mitzvah (diminishing the Mitzvah), Rav would even prohibit lighting from one Chanukkah candle to another.

Practical experience makes the second understanding of Rav to be quite difficult to understand. We know that lighting one candle from another does not cause the first candle to burn any less bright or for a shorter period of time. If so, how could the Gemarrah suggest that Rav might prohibit lighting another candle from the Chanukkah candles for this reason?

Rashi comes to the rescue with an amazing explanation of what Acchushei Mitzvah means. Rashi says that by lighting one candle from another you “appear as if you are saving the flame and pouring off some of the bad oil.”

Even though you are the one lighting the Chanukkah candles, and you know that you are not intending to pour off any of the extra oil, the Gemarrah is still concerned about how taking one of the lights and tilting it over appears.

If appearances are so important in an area like this, where it seems to be obvious that you aren’t doing anything wrong, then we need to be even more careful in other areas of our life! We need to make sure as we walk down the street and when we conduct our business that we are living our lives impeccably.

May the light of the Chanukkah candles inspire us to live our lives as a true Ohr laGoyim – a light unto the nations.

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