We Must Light the Fire, by Rabbi Yona Reiss

‏The festival of Chanuka is a time of illumination and inspiration.  When we reflect upon the Mesirus Nefesh of the Chasmonaim, it reminds us of our responsibility to keep the fire of Torah burning brightly despite all of the challenges presented by the world around us.

The Gemara (Shabbos 21b) teaches us that “Kavsah Ein Zakuk Lah” – if the Chanuka lights are extinguished, they need not be rekindled.  Nonetheless, the Halakha is that if the candles were lit in a windy place where they could not possibly have retained their illumination for the requisite time period of the obligation, then one has not fulfilled their obligation (see Mishna Berura 673:25).

The Ramban notes in his commentary to the Torah (Bamidbar 8:2), based on the Megillas Setarim of Rabeinu Nissim and other Midrashic sources, that the candles of Chanuka constitute a continuation of the illumination of the Menorah in the Beis Hamikdash.  “El Mul Pnei HaMenorah Yairu”– the lights shall shine brightly into perpetuity, when directed towards our eternal Menorah.

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Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur: The Ideal Time for Ideal Spirituality, By Rabbi Yona Reiss

The Mishna in Rosh Hashana (16a) indicates that Rosh Hashana is the day that all of humanity is judged like sheep passing through a corral.  At other intervals during the year, such as Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkot, humanity is judged on its wheat, fruit and water, respectively.  The Gemora notes that this Mishna does not seem to reflect the views of four different Tannaim who alternatively hold that mankind is judged regarding everything on Rosh Hashana with the final judgment sealed on Yom Kippur (Rabbi Meir), or that mankind is judged regarding everything on Rosh Hashana with the final judgment sealed for mankind on Yom Kippur, and sealed regarding wheat, fruit and water on their respective holidays (Rabbi Yehuda), or that man is judged each day (Rabbi Yossi), or that man is judged each moment (Rabbi Nosson).

The Gemora concludes that the Mishna is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yishmael that man is judged on Rosh Hashana regarding himself, and the judgment is sealed on Yom Kippur, and that the Mishna is referring to the starting time of the judgment, rather than the sealing of the judgment.

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