Friday, November 29, 2013

Chanuka 5631 3rd Night First Ma'amar

The Talmud[1] mentions two opposing views regarding which side of the doorway to light the Chanukah candles.  The Sfas Emes explains this debate.  He notes the pasuk in Mishlei (3:16), “אֹרֶךְ יָמִים בִּימִינָה בִּשְׂמֹאולָה עֹשֶׁר וְכָבוֹד/Length of days is in its right hand; in its left hand are riches and honor.”  Right and left are common analogies for the principle aspect of something vs. a related aspect of secondary importance.  Consequently, Chazal[2] teach us that the first part of this pasuk refers to the next world while the second part of the pasuk refers to this world.  This world is a tool for us to reach the next world.  This world is subordinate to the next world.

“Left” also suggests pushing away.  Chazal[3] teach us regarding the relationship between a teacher and student or a mother and child that one should use the left hand to push away and the right to bring close.  If pushing away is called for, it should be done with the weaker hand.  Bringing close should be done with the stronger hand.  This world was created primarily to give us the opportunity to push away and subordinate the transient in favor of the holy.

Since the right represents strength and permanence, we place the mezuzah on the right side of the doorway.  This also explains the view that we light Chanukah candles on the right side of the doorway.  However, the halachah follows the other view of lighting on the left side of the entrance.  Why?  In order to understand this we must understand the main point of the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles.  The principle spiritual effect of this mitzvah is to displace spiritual darkness with spiritual enlightenment.  This was the effect of the original miracle and continues to be the effect of the mitzvah each year.  The left side represents spiritual darkness.  This is why we light specifically on the left side.  It is there that the spiritual power of this mitzvah is needed and is effective.  It is specifically in the spiritual darkness represented by the left side that there is room for us to rectify the world and ourselves.

Rashi explains the redundancy in the pasuk, “יְמִינְךָ ה' נֶאְדָּרִי בַּכֹּחַ יְמִינְךָ ה' תִּרְעַץ אוֹיֵב/Your right hand, God, is most powerful; Your right hand, God, crushes the foe.” (Shmos 15:6)  Rashi says that when revenge is taken against the wicked even the “left” becomes the “right.”  The significance of the “left” becoming the “right” is spiritual light vs. spiritual darkness.  Adding to God’s honor and glory is symbolized by the “right.”  Lighting Chanukah candles on the left side of the doorway represents bringing spiritual light to the left side thereby turning it into the “right side.”

There is an obvious connection between the first half of the pasuk in Mishlei and the mitzvah of mezuzah.  The mezuzah is attached to the right doorpost and the pasuk in Mishlei states, “אֹרֶךְ יָמִים בִּימִינָה .../Length of days is in its right hand …”  Regarding the mitzvah of mezuzah the Torah states, “לְמַעַן יִרְבּוּ יְמֵיכֶם ... /In order to lengthen your days …” (Devarim 11:21)  The mitzvah of mezuzah lengthens our days and is therefore on the right side which is also associated with a long life.  However, why does the pasuk in Mishlei associate the left side with riches and honor?
In order to answer this question we first need to understand what wealth means.  Chazal[4] teach us that a wealthy person is one who is happy with his lot.  The Maharal[5] explains that the mishnah is giving us a definition of a wealthy person.  A definition must relate only to the person and not to any external cause.  An external effect cannot be considered a integral definition.  This is why the mishnah does not say that a wealthy person is someone with lots of money.  Having lots of money, in and of itself, does not automatically define a person as rich.  He could have been born into a family with lots of money.  He could have won a lottery ticket.  In either case, the fact that he has a lot of money does not define him. It is an external effect which comes and goes.  Only that which comes from within us - our outlook and actions - can define us. The mishnah teaches us that this outlook is our attitude towards our assets.

This is why the mishnah brings as a proof the pasuk, “יְגִיעַ כַּפֶּיךָ כִּי תֹאכֵל אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ/If you eat the toil of your hands, you are praiseworthy, and it is good for you.” (Tehillim 128:2)  A person can be defined as wealthy if he eats from the labor of his own hands.  A person who was born into wealth is not necessarily a wealthy person.  This is God given money.  God gives each of us exactly what we need.  Wealth is that which we have that is beyond our needs.

The Sfas Emes explains that this definition of wealth refers not only to money.  It applies to every aspect of our lives.  Every action that replaces spiritual darkness with spiritual light, every action that turns the “left” into the “right”, every action whose result is a rectification, adds to our “wealth and honor.”  This is why the end of the pasuk in Mishlei associates the left with riches and honor.  The riches and honor are the result of our actions, not what God gives us unconditionally.

May we all merit, through our actions, especially the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah lights to supplant darkness with light, to turn the “left” into the “right.”

[1] Shabbos 22a
[2] Sifri Eikev 48
[3] Sotah 47a
[4] Avos 4:1
[5] Derech Chaim 162a on Avos 4:1 starting with, “ve’amar eizehu ashir

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