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On each night of Chanukah as we light the Chanukah candles it is customary to light an additional candle. Some have the custom to simply place the candle used to light the candles near the Chanukah candles. Indeed every menorah has a special holder for this extra candle. It is commonly called the shamos.
The source of for this custom comes from a Gemara in Shabbos (21b). The Gemara tells us that the ideal place to light Chanukah candles is the entrance of the home. The Gemara later says that in times of danger when Jews are persecuted for their fulfillment of Torah mitzvos and are afraid to place the candles at the entrance of the home it suffices to place them on a table inside. The Gemarah then says that in such a situation there is a need to light an additional candle. The commentators explain that because the candles are now being lit on a table in the home it may not be noticeable that the reason why they are lit is to fulfill the mitzvah of Chanukah. An observer may mistakenly assume that the purpose of the candles is to illuminate the home. In order to make it clear that the candles were lit for the mitzvah of Chanukah one must light an additional candle. This will serve as a sign for the Chanukah candles.
Other commentators provide a different explanation. When we light the candles on a table in the home there is a possibility that we may inadvertently benefit from the light of the candles. The Chanukah candles are holy and may not be used for any purpose whatsoever. We are required to light an additional candle so that just in case we make use of the light we will use the light of the additional candle and not the light of the Chanukah candles.
The Gemara then says that in the event there is a torch lit and the home is illuminated there is no need for an additional lamp. In this case there is no concern that one may mistaken the Chanukah candles for ordinary candles or inadvertently derive benefit. However if the person who lit the Chanukah lamp is an adam chashuv, an important person he still must light an additional candle.
The commentators explain that it is not the way of an important person to use the light of a torch. An adam chashuv always uses the light of small lamps. For such a person the Chanukah candles may still be confused with ordinary candles and there is still a danger that he might come to use its light. Thus an adam chashuv must light an additional lamp.
We may note that in modern times it would seem that there is no need for this additional lamp. Most of the Jewish population are fortunate to live in places where there is no danger and are able to put the Chanukah candles in an area that would not be confused with lamps lit for personal benefit. Additionally, today it is not common to derive benefit from candle light. We have electrical lighting. We are all included in the rule of Gemara that says that when there is torch and the home is illuminated there is no need for an additional lamp.
Furthermore, we may note that our custom calls on every person in the household to light an additional candle. Why is this necessary? The only reason for every member of the household to light their own candles is because of a concept called mehadrin, beautification. This concept seemingly does not apply to the shamas of the Chanukah candles. One shamas should suffice for an entire household?
The commentators answer that the reason we all light the additional candle is to preserve the custom of our ancestors who lit the Chanukah candles in their homes on their tables due to the danger mentioned in the Gemara. Our ancestors were required by Jewish law to light the additional candle. We continue to light the candle as a reminder that in the past our ancestors were not as fortunate as we are today and we have what to be grateful for.
Perhaps we may suggest an additional reason. The Gemara tells us that an adam chashuv must light an additional candle even if there is a torch lit and the home is illuminated. Simply understood, this statement is a continuation of the laws that one should follow in times of danger. However we may suggest that this statement is a new teaching and not connected with the previous Gemara.
The Gemarah is teaching us that whenever an important person lights the Chanukah candles he should also light an additional candle. This is required even if the room is well lit and there is no concern that one will confuse the Chanukah candles for ordinary candles or that he may mistakenly use the candles of Chanukah for his own personal benefit. This additional candle represents the adam chashuv. Indeed a candle is a symbol of a man as it says in the posuk “the candle of Hashem is the soul of man.”
When an observer views the lit candles of Chanukah he is reminded of the miracle of Chanukah. When he views the additional candle lit near the Chanukah candles he is reminded that these Chanukah candles were lit by an adam chashuv.
Chazal tells us that the Syrian-Greeks did not in any way wish to annihilate the Jewish people. Their goal was to defile the Jewish people. They could not tolerate the fact the Jewish people were superior to all the nations. They could not bear to live with the fact that the Jewish people were the chosen nation of Hashem. They knew the power of the Jewish people lay in the Torah. They wished to defile the spiritually of the Torah and thus reduce the Jewish people to an ordinary nation like all others. In other words they tried to take away the “chashevus” of the Jewish people. The miracle of Chanukah rekindled the “chashevus” of the Jewish people.
In the terminology of Chazal an adam chashuv is one who is G‑d fearing and fulfilled in Torah study and observance of mitzvos. An adam chashuv embodies the chashevus of the Jewish people.
When an adam chashuv lights the menorah the mitzvah takes on a new dimension. Not only do we remember the miracle the occurred but in addition we note that the mitzvah has been fulfilled by a person who embodies the chashevus that the Sryian-Greeks wished to obliterate. The adam chashuv is a living example of the Jewish people’s victory over the Sryian-Greeks.
We may ask why then do we all light an addition candle. Can it really be that every person is deserving of the title adam chashuv. The answer is, absolutely yes.
The Gemarah tells us that women should not recline at the Pesach Seder. However, an e’shah chashuvah, an important woman should recline. The Ramah in Shulchan Aruch says that in our times all women are important and must recline. We may assume that in our times men are no worse then women. Each person is an “adam chashuv.”
Our custom requires each person to light an additional candle. Each person must fulfill that which it says in the Gemara; If an adam chashuv lights the Chanukah candles he must light an additional candle. Furthermore, when we view the lit Chanukah candles of another and notice the shamas in the background we must not forget that an adam chashuv lit these candles.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5765/2004