December 21st, 2022 — Hanukkah Kavanot 2022/5783
My name is Ronit Tsadok. I’m one of the rabbis here at IKAR.
The question that I want to think about together tonight is when should we be lighting Hanukkah candles? In the Talmud, Masekhet Shabbat 21B asks this question and says, “From the time that the sun sets up until the time that the foot traffic ends in the shuk, in the marketplace, and specifically the Talmud says until the feet of the tarmoda’ei are done in the shuk.
We’ll understand that a little bit better in a second.
But what does it mean that we light from when it’s dark until the last people leave the marketplace?
So, there’s one explanation that’s the most well-known explanation, which is whenever you’re able to light anywhere between those times, then you can light because we need to make sure that we’re performing the mitzvah, the obligation, of pirsumei nisa, of publicizing the miracle by having our Hanukkah candles in our window or outside our door. And it needs to be seen by people. And so as long as there are people leaving the shuk, leaving the marketplace, we can still light our candles.
So those can be seen. But there’s another interpretation in the Talmud that’s actually really interesting and gives us a little insight and a different way of looking at this mitzvah, of putting our light in the windowsill.
And that says that actually the time of lighting the candles whenever we light it has to be able to last all the way until those last people, the tarmoda’ei leave the marketplace.
It’s not about us. It’s actually in some ways about the people who are out there working late into the night.
So who are the tarmoda’ei? Rashi a famous Rabbinic commentator, says they’re the ones who were collecting wood. They were collecting wood once everyone else had left the market.
So that if I went home at 6:00 or 7:00 and realized at 9:00 or 10:00 or 11:00 that I didn’t have enough wood to heat my home I would go out, and I would be able to buy it from them, the people who are working late into the night for us.
And so what does this interpretation offer us?
Well, it’s less about my candles being the light and being seen by other people. And maybe it’s a little bit more about us making sure that we see them and that we pay attention to people who are out there in the world, long after we’ve made it home and are cozy in our homes ourselves. To ensure that we’re actually seeing their light, these tarmoda’ei, the people who collected wood are literally the people who enable us to have light in our homes.
What do we need to do in order to see those who are still out in the world, those who are helping to make it possible for us to have light in our homes? We need to see them and look into their eyes, to recognize their value and their dignity, and shine our light in both directions.