Priority of Shabbat candles over Chanukah Light

Shabbat Chanukah – Parashat Miketz

“The Light of War and the Light of Peace There is a law about Chanukah I find moving and profound. Maimonides writes that ‘the command of Chanukah lights is very precious. One who lacks the money to buy lights should sell something, so as to be able to fulfil the mitzvah.’ The question then arises, What if, on Friday afternoon, you find yourself with only one candle? What do you light it as — a Shabbat candle or a Chanukah one? It can’t be both. Logic suggests that you should light it as a Chanukah candle. After all, there is no law that you have to sell or borrow. Yet the law is that, if faced with such a choice, you light it as a Shabbat light. Why? Listen to Maimonides: ‘The Shabbat light takes priority because it symbolises shalom bayit, domestic peace. And great is peace because the entire Torah was given in order to make peace in the world.’ Consider: Chanukah commemorates one of the greatest military victories in Jewish history. Yet Jewish law rules that if we can only light one candle — the Shabbat light takes precedence, because in Judaism the greatest military victory takes second place to peace in the home. Why did Judaism, alone among the civilizations of the ancient world, survive? Because it valued the home more than the battlefield….”   This is a beautiful thought by Lord Rabbi Sacks זצ”ל. 

May I add?

Perhaps, Shabbat candles also take precedence because Shalom Bayit, domestic peace, has its foundations on the “normal- unique” day of every single week, The ShabbatKodesh, our Holy Shabbat. Which brings together the whole family every single week?  Whereas Chanukah symbolises the “unusual” and miraculous days in our calendar. Our values are based first and foremost on discovering the uniqueness of every “normal” day, and only then – do we focus on the special days and events in which wonders happened. 

Indeed, as we say three times a day – “מודים אנחנו לך… על ניסיך שבכל יום עמנו ” – we appreciate the “daily miracles and wonders…” 

So perhaps Shabbat candles take precedence, because appreciation of the weekly “common” Holy day of Shabbat forms the foundation of our family values and our Shalom Bayit. 

A Happy Chanukah 

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld