Rabbi Dovid of Tolna’s Chanukah Question


It was Chanukah eve, and a large group of chassidim had gathered in the home of Rabbi Dovid of Tolna to witness their Rebbe’s lighting of the menorah. Rabbi Dovid held the lighted shammash in hand, and prepared to recite the blessings; suddenly, he turned to one of the assembled chassidim and asked:

“I’ve always wondered: You are a very tall fellow, while your wife is a short woman. What do you do when you wish to speak to each other? Do you stoop down to her or does she crane upward toward you?”

Without waiting for a reply, the Rebbe turned his attention to the menorah, set on a stool in the doorway, recited the blessings, and lit the flames.

Later, a chassid explained the Rebbe’s mysterious remark. The Talmud tells us that, as a rule, “the Divine Presence does not descend to lower than ten tefachim (approx. 31 inches) above the ground.”[18] And yet, the laws of Chanukah specify that it is preferable to place the menorah below this height.[19] This, says the Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria,[20] is an expression of G-d’s great love for His people: the Divine Groom stoops down to commune with His bride Israel.

Adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Yanki Tauber.

[18]. Talmud, Sukkah 5a.

[19]. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 671:6.

[20]. “The Holy Ari,” 1534-1572.

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