The hanukkia: Left- and right-wingers

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December 7, 2017 22:20

Theocracy, democracy and Halacha




A reconstruction of the Temple’s menorah, created by the Temple Institute in the Old City’s Jewish Q

A reconstruction of the Temple’s menorah, created by the Temple Institute in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The hanukkia, also known as the menorah, has its roots in the menorah candelabra of the Temple. While there are many halachot regarding the appearance and structure of the biblical menorah, Rashi, the great French commentator, points to a most remarkable halachic feature that commands our attention. Regarding the Torah’s instruction to arrange the lamps in a way that they will shine “toward the menorah,” Rashi explains this to mean that all the flames in the lamps should point toward the middle light.

The Italian sage and physician Rabbi Ovadia Sforno, in his masterful commentary on the Torah, elaborates on Rashi’s comments and explains that the extremists on both ends of the spectrum need to focus on the middle road, which is symbolized by the central light of the menorah. While both groups are completely dedicated to Torah and its tradition, the right-wingers need to know that without those who occupy themselves with the affairs of the mundane world, Judaism will not succeed. At the same time, the left-wingers must understand that without those who occupy themselves with the study and implementation of Torah, their worldly occupations would lack the opportunity for sanctification.

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