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GIVE IT YOUR BEST SHOT

by Ezra Cohen and Lavi Greenspan    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writers    

In most every Ashkenazic household across the world where the lights are kindled on Chanukah, every person lights his own menorah corresponding to the night that it is.

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In most every Ashkenazic household across the world where the lights are kindled on Chanukah, every person lights his own menorah corresponding to the night that it is. For example, on the third night, every member of the household would light three candles. This is the common way in which we perform this mitzvah. In truth, there are three levels in lighting the menorah. The basic mitzvah is where the head of the house lights one candle each night for his whole household. The second level is where each person in the household lights one candle each night. The third level, the ideal way to perform this mitzvah, is where each person in the household lights according to the night that it is. Why specifically concerning the lights of the menorah is there a concept of mehadrin min hamehadrin, an ideal way to perform the mitzvah, and not by other mitzvot?

Rabbi Yitzchak Mirsky, a contemporary halachist, answers this question by citing the question of the Bach, a great halachic decisor of the 16th century. What is the reason for the Greeks' decree of prohibiting the Jews from performing the Temple service, specifically the lighting of the menorah? The Bach answers this question by stating that this decree against the Jews was punishment due to the fact that the Jews were negligent in performing the service of lighting the menorah.

We see from the Bach that when we are lazy and negligent in performing a mitzvah, then we will lose the opportunity to perform that mitzvah. Concerning Chanukah, therefore, we have the concept of mehadrin min hamehadrin in order to rectify our past negligence in this mitzvah. We were lax in its service in the Temple, so we must give this mitzvah our utmost attention and effort; we must go beyond the letter of the law, and perform it in its most ideal fashion.

The Bach's answer provides us with an important lesson for life. As the famous adage goes, "If you don't use it, you lose it." If you do not take care of something it will eventually be lost. For example, if you do not nurture a plant and attend to it, it will wither and die. All the more so this is true for spiritual matters such as mitzvot. If we do not invest time and energy, we cannot expect our desire to do the will of Hashem to last. If, on the other hand, we constantly and consistently infuse within the mitzvot our fullest strength and effort, then we can expect the mitzvot to be sustained and remain meaningful to us.

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Ezra Cohen, an alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, is in his fourth year of rabbinic ordination at Yeshiva University in New York.
Lavi Greenspan, who studies with Ezra, has always.wanted to appear in the pages of
Torah from Dixie.

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