Tonight after sundown, we light seven lights in the Menorah.
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ADDING A NEW LIGHT EACH NIGHT OF CHANUKAH
The custom we follow when lighting the Chanukah candles is to add one more light for each night of Chanukah. Hence, on the first night we light one candle and on the second night two candles and so on and so forth until we reach the final night of Chanukah in which we light eight candles. However this is the subject of a dispute in the Talmud (Shabbos 21b). The custom we follow is the opinion of Bais Hillel (The school of Hillel). Bais Shamai (The school of Shamai) held that we light on the first night eight candles and with each succeeding night we light one less. Thus, by the time we light the candles on the last night of Chanukah according to Bais Shamai we should light only one candle. The Talmud rules like Bais Hillel and we therefore light a new candles every night,
The Talmud discusses the reasons behind these two opinions. Bais Hillel say, that we increase the holiness and not diminish in holiness. Bais Shammai compares the lighting of the candles to the sacrifices that were performed during the Succos holiday where a total of seventy bullocks were offered in this manner: on the first day of the holiday, they sacrificed thirteen bullocks; on the second day were offered twelve bullocks, etc. until on Shmeini Atzeres, the last day of the holiday, only one bullock was offered. Therefore, they held that we begin with eight and reduce it until one.
There are several questions we wish to address with regards to the opinion of Bais Shamai.
1) Why in fact should the number of candles being lit be reduced during the holiday of Chanukah?
2) What is the comparison to the bullocks of Succos have with lighting the Chanukah candles?
3) And, why in fact, are the bullocks offered on Succos in a manner that each day on less is offered? Why not keep the bullocks consistent with the rest of the sacrifices that are offered each day with a set amount for each animal offered?
In addition to the above there is a basic question that must be answered. The Talmud, when discussing the events of the Chanukah miracle, adds a seemingly odd detail; “In the following year, the Rabbis established [the days of Chanukah] as a holiday to offer praise and thanks (therefore each and every year, we recite the full version of Hallel throughout the days of Chanukah).”
Why did the Rabbis wait until the following year to establish it as a holiday and not immediately following the miracle [in that year]?
The answer to the last question is that the Rabbis would only establish a new holiday, if the same spiritual force that resulted in the original miracle would repeat itself in the following year so they waited until the following year at the same time when they determined that the spiritual forces returned. This renewed spiritual force is called Kedushas HaZeman, sanctity of the season.
This then is the source of the differing opinions of Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel. The conquest of the Maccabbes represented the conquest of good over evil. The Hellenists goal was to remove every vestige of sanctity from the Jewish nation. They were not interested in annihilating the Jews as Haman intended in the Purim miracle. This was a battle of the spirit. The Hellenists stood for culture and secularism and wanted to remove the concept of holiness which was the hallmark of the Jews. So the victory of the Jews over the Hellenists and their culture accomplished “Sur May-Rah”, “turning away from evil”, At the same time, the Syrian-Greeks primary agenda was to make them [the Jews] “to forget Your Torah and to compel them to stray from the statutes of Your Will” (Chanukah al Hanissim liturgy) since they knew that the key to the Jewish religion is the study of Torah. If Torah study were neglected, then the decline of ritual observance would be inevitable and swift. (Artscroll Siddur quoting Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch) By vanquishing the Syrian-Greek army, the Macabbes cleared the way for the Jews to return to the ways of their forbearers and once again to practice “V’Asay Tov”, “to perform good”.
In Bais Shmmai’s opinion, the stress of the Chanukah observance was on the conquest over the evil of the Hellenistic culture. This concept shares the roots of the Succos bullock offerings because as the Talmud teaches the seventy bullocks offered throughout the Succos holiday are representative of the seventy nations of the world. The purpose of the sacrificial offerings was to weaken the Koach Hatumah, influence of impurity in the world symbolized by the seventy nations of the world. This is the connection of the Chanukah lights and the sacrificial bullocks; both represent the weakening of the influence of evil in the world. This is why in Bais Shammai’s view we start with eight and slowly decrease the amount of lights every night, diminishing the influence of evil in the world.
In contrast, Bais Hillel believes that the focus of Chanukah is on increasing the power of goodness and holiness in the world. This is demonstrated by increasing light in the world so for each night a new candle is added to the Menorah. The way to accomplish this goal is “Ma’alin BeKodesh, to add holiness and not to detract from it. In essence, one must strengthen himself during this holiday of Chanukah to “pursue good” and not by just avoiding evil. “vru, tkt cuy iht"/ “There is no good except Torah”. Therefore one must increase his Torah study and his performance of mitzvos during these days. Then as “a little bit of light can dispel much darkness” we will merit the blessings of goodness and kindness from Heaven.