The Talmud (in Tractate Sukkah 5a) states that the Shechinah (Divine presence) does not descend below ten tefachim (a measurement of approximately 35 inches). Yet, the Talmud writes elsewhere (Tractate Shabbat 21a) that ideally, one’s Chanukah menorah should be lit in a place that is lower than ten tefachim.
The obvious question then arises: why would we light the menorah in a place so low that, according to the Talmud, it does not merit to have the Divine presence descend?
That’s strange, isn’t it?
During the historical period that the Chanukah episode took place, most of the Jewish nation were assimilated into the dominant Greek culture. While there was a handful of Maccabee warriors that fought against the Greeks and their anti-Torah decrees, sadly the vast majority of Jews had abandoned their Judaism and their Jewish culture.
Despite this, Hashem performed many open miracles for the entire nation. The small Jewish army was victorious over the large and powerful Greek army. Upon gaining access to the Beit Hamikdash (Temple), the Maccabees rededicated it by making holy what had become profane. They discovered a flask of oil that contained just enough oil to burn for one day, and it should have only lasted for one day. But it didn’t; it burned for eight miraculous days.
Chanukah is a time when Hashem performed many miracles for the Jewish people even though, as a whole, they might not have been worthy of His salvation.
One reason why we light the Chanukah menorah in a place where typically the Divine presence does not descend is to remind us that on Chanukah, Hashem comes down to be with us, wherever we might be. Throughout the year, we are required to elevate ourselves heavenward in order to connect to Hashem. Chanukah is an exception to that rule, as He descends down to us to connect with us.
Just like Hashem descended to our level and saved our ancestors during the Chanukah period centuries ago, despite their not having been completely worthy, so too every year during the eight days of Chanukah, Hashem descends to even the lowest of places and elevates His children from there.
May we take advantage of these precious days of Chanukah to reconnect and deepen our relationship with our loving Father in Heaven.
This article is based on a shiur “Pieces of Peace” by Reb. Shira Smiles and on the book “Inside Chanukah” by Aryeh Pinchas Strickoff.
Miriam Brodersen is a writer and lecturer. Ms. Brodersen teaches at several seminaries in Jerusalem.