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The following is an adapted excerpt from “Strive
for Truth”: The Teachings of Rabbi Eliyahu E. Dessler. Published by Feldheim
Publishers, New York/Jerusalem.
A MODEL OF SERVICE OF HASHEM*
general, there are three modes of service of Hashem, corresponding to the three
aspects of the soul: nefesh, ruach and neshamah. Those whose service is
external, governed by habit and upbringing, may be said to serve G-d with their nefesh.
If some degree of emotionalism is added, one might call it the service of the ruach.
This is still external, and one`s emotions will decline to the extent that he
gets accustomed to it. Those whose service is inward and who make it their
business to internalize every good idea they come across may be said to
serve with the neshamah. They are the ones whose joy increases as time
is a well-known dispute between the Talmudical Schools of Beit Shammai and Beit
Hillel (Tractate Shabbos 21b) regarding the number of Chanukah lights to be lit
each night - whether they should be lit over the eight days in ascending order,
from one to eight (Beit Hillel), or descending order, from eight to one (Beit
Shammai). The issue was whether the Sages ordained the choicest mitzvah in accordance
with the service of the inward form of service, whose joy increases from day
to day (ma`alin b`kodesh - ascending in sanctity), or in
accordance with the service of the average Jew, whose emotions are at their
height on the opening day of a festival and drop off as the days left to the
festival successively decrease.
The dispute of Beit Shammai and Beit HilleI refers to the person who
wishes to perform the mitzvah in the best possible manner - la-mehadrin
min ha-mehadrin. This hints at the person who wishes to perfect
himself in all aspects of Torah, Beit Shammai advocates that he should adopt the
option in which one recognize his lowliness, lessen his emphasis on outward
finesse, and rather concentrate on increasing inwardness and sincerity. [The
descent from eight to one can also be seen as a progressive reduction of empty
outwardness and a striving towards the sincerity and inwardness represented by
one - Sefat Emet.]
But Beit Hillel believes that he should copy the outward actions of the
tzaddikim, who grow in fulfillment with each passing day, while constantly
reminding himself that he must grow in inwardness, adding light to
light as time goes on. To avoid insincerity he must constantly think
of the distance he has yet to travel. But he should not allow these thoughts to
hinder his positive performance of mitzvot in the best possible way.
We should avoid the negative and concentrate on the positive. If our
sights are set on spiritual growth, positive action can serve to draw us to an
even higher level.
The title as it appears in the original is, “The Lamps of
Tonight, Friday evening, December 30, 2005 we light Six Chanukah Candles