Lighting up the darkness

It is a long-standing Chabad metaphor, repeated by the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, that his Chassidim need to be lamp lighters. One of their tasks is to create light in a dark world, so to speak. In advice allegedly also given to Binyamin Netanyahu, he had said

“even in the darkest hall, the light of a single candle can be seen from a great distance”

Netanyahu had taken to using this metaphor in many speeches and discussions. If I’m not mistaken, he also used this metaphor in his famous recent speech to the UN. The metaphor is apt an powerful, and certainly justifies the lighting of the Jewish soul, if you wish, by Chabad emissaries throughout the world.

Recently, I was listening to a shiur by R’ Hershel Schachter. He mentioned the Pasuk

כי נר מצוה ותורה אור

For Mitzvos are a candle and Torah is light

He made the point (unrelated to Chabad) that whilst its true that a little light can illuminate “big” darkness, that Mitzvos are limited in that they are but the light of the candle. It is not effective on the larger scale, so to speak, of vast darkness. They light up the immediate surround, but are pretty limited as one moves away. Torah, however, is light itself. Accordingly, says R’ Schachter, if one wants to really illuminate and disperse the darkness, one needs to increase in Torah learning, whose light is Or itself.

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

5 thoughts on “Lighting up the darkness”

  1. In advice allegedly also given to Binyamin Netanyahu, he had said

    “even in the darkest hall, the light of a single candle can be seen from a great distance”

    Firstly, what do you mean by “allegedly”?
    Binyamin Netanyahu says that the Rebbe told him this, in a private Yechidus.
    I don’t think this warrants any question as to whether this happened or not.

    Secondly, Binyamin Netanyahu didn’t just repeat this lesson which the Rebbe taught him, he actually stated in his speech to the UN:

    (approximate quote)
    “The Grand Lubavitcher Rebbe told me, that you are now going to serve in the UN, a house full of lies, it is in your power to bring the light of truth into the dark house of lies, just like a lit candle disperses immense darkness by its mere nature, so to, you have the power to say the truth and bring light into the UN.”

    R’ Hershel Schachter’s point was seemingly, that a Torah Jew should not only have Mitzvos and good deeds but has to also learn Torah, the Mitzvos are a candle, and the Torah is light.

    This is seemingly, at least to me, unrelated to the Lubavitcher Rebbes above mentioned lesson.
    The Rebbe was bringing up, and teaching us a much broader lesson:

    As we all know, we live in a conflict of light and darkness, good and bad, soul and body, spirituality and the mundane etc. within ourselves as well as in the world at large.

    Chassidus teaches us that, instead of battling with the darkness, the bad, the body and the mundane, we are to lighten up these areas with light, goodness, soul and spirituality.

    Just like a small light in a very dark room dispenses alot of light, so to every good action, every kind gesture, every soul experience and every act of spirituality, dispenses the opposing forces and bring us closer to being a better person, and to a better world.

    Thank you.


    1. R’ Hershel Schachter’s point was that Torah is a far greater disperser of light in darkness, והמבין יבין

      PS. By allegedly, I meant that I had heard this and read it, but I’m not sure if it’s been verified.


    1. Thanks Avremel. I’m not sure I understand the physics behind the difference the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains in the footnote there regarding clarifying the darkness versus transforming the darkness.


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