With Rosh Chodesh Kislev approaching, Chanukah is on the way. There is a famous machlokes [dispute] in the Gemara (Maseches Shabbos) on the following question: Madlikin mi’ner l’ner, o lo? (Can you take a Chanukah candle and use it to light another Chanukah candle? Yes or no?) On this there is a machlokes [between] Rav and Shmuel: Rav says no, Shmuel says yes. Rav says no because ka mach’chish mitzvah – you diminish the mitzvah. If I take a light to light another light, then I’m going to spill a little of the oil, or a little of the wax and the result is that I will diminish the first light. And Shmuel doesn’t worry about this. Now, we know, in general, Machlokes Rav u’Shmuel, halachah k’Rav – the law is always according to Rav (against Shmuel) with only three exceptions, and this is one of them.
What is at stake? What were they arguing about? And why in this case is the law not like Rav but like Shmuel?
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt”l explains that the answer you will find in today’s Jewish world: You will take two Yidden, two Jews, both religious, both frum, both erlich, both y’rei’ei Shamayim, both keeping all the mitzvos, kalah k’chamurah. But there’s a big difference between them: One of them says I have to look after my light, and if I get involved with Jews who are not frum, not religious, who are not committed, ka mach’chish mitzvah – my Yiddishkeit will be diminished. That is the view of Rav, and Rav was a spiritual giant. But Shmuel dared to say otherwise. He said: When I take my light to set another Jewish soul on fire, I don’t have less light, I have more! Because while there was once one light, now there are two, and maybe from those two will come more! So too, when we go out to Jews who are less committed than we are, our light is not diminished; the result is we create more light in the world (RabbiSacks.org).
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks passed away last Shabbos. Rabbi Sacks was such an eloquent voice for Judaism. His sensitivity and intelligence permeated everything he wrote. He was an advocate for Jewish values, ethics, morality, and tolerance. May the Rabbi’s family be comforted and find strength during this difficult time. May his neshamah have an aliyah and may he be a meilitz yosher for his family and all of klal Yisrael.