Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Restarting Ourselves on Chanukah

My computer wasn't working – at least not well. It started to freeze up, and was taking far too long to load even simple programs. When this happens, as it does every so often, there's a fix that usually solves the problem. I simply restart the computer, and often the problem goes away.

It seems so simple: restart. Somehow, the computer puts things back the way they should be, and things work again properly. If only life were so simple. After a fight with my son/wife/co-worker – wouldn't it be wonderful if we could simply turn things off, and restart – and have everything work the way it should?

This idea of renewal and restarting applies, not only in the world of computers, but in our daily lives as well. For a long period of time, I was on a diet called SugarBusters!. The essence of the diet is: no refined sugars or grains, no processed food, and no corn or potatoes. It's pretty all-encompassing. People, when they heard about the diet would ask me: "Are you going to eat that way for the rest of your life?" (The answer, as it turned out, is 'no.') I would tell them, "I have no idea if I'm going to eat this way for the rest of my life. But I know that I'm going to eat this way today."

Each and every day during Shacharit, we refer to God as המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית – "He who renews in His Goodness each and every day the act of Creation." Each day isn't a continuation from the last day. Rather, each day is a new day; a new creation, disconnected from yesterday.

We can find this idea in the halachot of Chanukah as well. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 675) writes that,
הדלקה עושה מצוה ולא הנחה...לפיכך, עששית שהייתה דולקת כל היום שהדליקה מערב שבת למצות חנוכה, למוצאי שבת מכבה ומדליקה לשם מצוה.
The lighting [of the Chanukah lights] established the mitzvah, and not the placing [of the lights]…for this reason, an ember that remained lit for the entire day [of Shabbat] that was lit on erev Shabbat for the mitzvah of Chanukah – after Shabbat one must extinguish [the light] and relight it for the purpose of the mitzvah.
At face value, if the purpose of the lighting of the Chanukah candles is פרסומי ניסא – spreading the miracle of Chanukah – then what difference does it make when I lit the candles? Why should it matter whether I lit the candles today, yesterday, or three days ago? Yet, the Mishnah Berurah explain that,

ואינו מועיל מה שהדליקה אתמול לשם מצוה דכל יומא ויומא מילתא באנפי נפשה היא
The lighting from yesterday for the sake of the mitzvah does not help [for today] – for each and every day stands alone.
While the light may be the same, we are still required to perform the act of lighting each and every day. My actions from yesterday do not suffice. I must restart, relight and rekindle in order to properly perform the mitzvah.

The same rule applies to the rest of our lives.

Some of the very best things we do are repetitive. Yet that very repetitiveness can lead to a sense of staleness and boredom. Even the lighting of the candles itself can become repetitive. We all know remember the excitement of the first night; the exuberance with which we sing Maoz Tzur. The second night is still pretty good. But by the fifth and sixth nights, even the lighting of the Chanukiah takes on a tone of drudgery.

That's precisely the point at which we need to "Restart." Reinvigorate, and relight ourselves with the passion of the light of Chanukah.