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Wednesday, December 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Chanukah

As part of the Hallel we recite all eight days of Chanukah, we include the following pesukim from Tehillim (116:16-17) "Ana HaShem ki ani avdecha. Ani avd'cha ben amasecha pitachta lemoseirai. Lecha ezbach zevach todah..." David HaMelech, in his pleas to HaShem, refers to himself as "avd'cha ben amasecha," your servant, the son of your maid. Many of the commentaries point out that a servant who was bought by his master serves him involuntary as he recalls the days of his freedom. The son of a maid, however, who is born into servitude, knows no better life and serves his master whole-heartedly. David HaMelech emphasizes his status of "ben amasecha" as a symbol of his whole-hearted service of HaShem.


In the introduction to the sefer Oneg Yom Tov, the author explains that complete gratitude requires generosity of the heart. One cannot be forced to show gratitude. It is an expression that must come graciously, out of one's own free will or it is not genuine gratitude. This explains the continuation of David HaMelech's words. After expressing his utter devotion as a servant of HaShem he notes that nevertheless, "pitachta lemoseirai," You have opened up my shackles. Even though David HaMelech was a servant, he felt freed from his shackles in such a way that he was able to give whole-hearted thanks to HaShem. Therefore, "lecha ezbach zevach todah," to You I may offer a thanksgiving sacrifice. Only with the feeling of freedom was he able to offer a sincere sacrifice of thanks.


Reb Ephraim Eisenberg, zt"l, quoting an anonymous source, commented that this idea may be employed to understand an interesting phenomenon in the halachos of Chanukah. Chazal decreed that the basic mitzvah of candle lighting is one candle for each household each night. The way of the "mehadrin," the extra mile, is for everyone in the house to light one per night. And the "mehadrin min hamehadrin," the quintessential performance of the mitzvah is for each member of the household to light and add an extra candle every night which is what most of us do. Why do Chazal ordain this as a "mehadrin min hamehadrin?" If this is indeed the ideal way to perform the mitzvah, why is not decreed that this is how we should do it? We often see Chazal suggest a stricter way of performing a mitzvah but seldom do we see Chazal dictate a "better" way to do a mitzvah. With the above, we may understand that Chazal specifically did not force us to perform this mitzvah in this way because the mitzvah of ner Chanukah, as we say in "Haneiros Halalu," is "kedei lehodos ulehalel," to give thanks and praise. This must be done out of generosity of the heart. Therefore, Chazal specifically spelled out an ideal way to perform the mitzvah, but left it to us to choose, of our own accord, to perform it in that way. This makes the lighting of the candles a true demonstration of gratitude to HaShem.


Have a Chanukah samei'ach!.

Eliezer Bulka

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