Tonight we light the first of the Hannukah candles. The common practice around the world is to increase those lights one at a time each night until next Saturday night the Menorah will be fully lit with eight candles, celebrating the eight nights the small container of oil miraculously lasted. The Talmud actually describes several different ways of lighting the Menorah. The basic mitzvah is to light only one candle each night for eight nights. A way of beautifying this mitzvah is for each person in the house to light their own one candle each night. The best of the best way to light is the way we do it – increasing the light each night until there are eight candles.
The Breslov tradition has a beautiful spiritual teaching about these three ways of lighting the menorah. Rebbe Nachman teaches that there are three aspects of Tzadik, that can help us grow spiritually. There is the actual Tzadik, fully righteous person, from whom many people learn through their teachings or righteous behavior. Then there is something unique and righteous about each us that we teach each other, because none of us share the same exact unique gifts. We learn from and inspire each other as peers. Then there is the unique aspect of ourselves, that we develop through careful cultivation of our character and spirit. This is considered the piece of Tzadik in each of us.
Rabbi Nosson of Breslov writes that these three aspects of Tzadik correspond to the three ways of lighting the menorah. The first method, lighting one candle for the entire house, is equivalent to learning from the singular teacher, or Tzadik. The second method, each person lights their own candle, is equivalent to us learning from the unique Tzadik element in each other. The third method, each person lights the ascending order of one to eight candles is the choicest way to light the menorah. This corresponds to each person developing their own unique Tzadik element through dedication to working on their spiritual growth. Through working on your middot and developing your relationship with God through hitbodedut and other means there is no end to how high you can go.
As we light the menorah this year may we be blessed to learn from our teachers, from all those around us and, most of all, from the inner wisdom which is our unique blessing and birthright.