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When Hanukkah and Shabbos fall on the same night–Shanukah? Challahka?

Light is a powerful life force in Judaism.

And God saw the light, that it was good” (Genesis, 1:4)

“We are a light unto the nations.”  (Isaiah 42:6)

When you walk into an unfamiliar room and it is pitch black and then you turn on a light, or strike a match, or light a candle, you can now see where you are going, you have a better sense of understanding and direction. You are not as lost. Well, that is how light transforms Judaism, every Friday night when we light the Shabbos candles, every Saturday night when we light the Havdalah candles at the conclusion of Shabbos, and on Hanukkah when we light the nine lamps on the menorah. These are all repeated opportunites for us to be enlightened, to gain insight and direction in our lives.

So, how does the kindling of lights work when Shabbos and Hanukkah fall on the same day, which inevitably occurs because the Festival of Lights lasts for eight nights. Well, we have specific rules for that, like everything else in Judaism there are instructions on how to observe each holiday and life in general. On Friday afternoon, the menorah should be lit before the Shabbos candles, which are traditionally lit 18 minutes before sundown. And on Saturday night, the menorah is lit after nightfall.

So, what is the difference between Shabbos and Hanukkah lights? To start with, Shabbos candles and Hanukkah candles have two distinct purposes. Shabbos candles are meant to light up the home, our inner soul, and help us slow down and see what really matters in life. Hanukkah candles are lit for the sole purpose of reliving the miracle and in doing so enlightening others.

On Shabbos, candles are lit indoors. They represent Judaism’s inner light. This is the light that makes our home, our marriage, our family holy and warms our very being.

At the end of Shabbos, the intertwined wicks of the Havdalah candle reminds us to blend the “private” light of Shabbos with the “outer” light that is generated during the week when we leave our personal space and re-enter the outside world with renewed energy and purpose so that we can  share our light and our values that reflect our faith.

Unlike Shabbos and Havdalah candles, the Hanukkah candles were originally lit outside the front door. The menorah is meant to be illuminated publicly for the world to see. In Israel many menorahs of all sizes are still displayed outside, however in America these candelabras are mostly lit indoors. A menorah is meant to be shown by a window for passersby and neighbors to witness how we celebrate the Festival of Lights. The Hanukkah candles remind us of how we are seen by others. Are we making a difference in the world, are we using our gifts, skills, and talents for a purpose to make our home, our community, the world a better place?  Are we using our freedom to practice our unique faith opening and proudly? Jewish people are a tiny minority in a world and yet, our light, our actions, and our values burn brightly and will never be extinguished. Unlike Shabbos candles that are meant to illuminate our home, the Hanukkah candles are meant to spread warmth and light up the world!

Hanukkah Sameach and a Good Shabbos!