Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, known as the The Kedushas Levi, once walked into his Bait Medresh and saw a few of his students discussing something with a sense of yearning and jealousy. As he approached the group, they quickly quieted down, acting as if they were engrossed in their learning. The Kedushas Levi inquired what they had been discussing so passionately. Although the students did not want to reveal the topic of their conversation at first, they finally admitted that they were talking about an exceptionally wealthy individual and marveling with envy at all the pleasure and enjoyment he must experience. Rav Levi Yitzchak responded by asking if this wealthy individual lights Chanukah candles. The students responded that of course he does not. At which point Rav Levi Yitzchak proclaimed, “Then he does not know what it is like to experience true pleasure in this world.”
Throughout the generations, lighting Chanukah candles has been one of the most profound and precious experiences a Jew can have throughout the entire year. Perhaps the most beautiful part of this mitzvah is how families come together to experience the shine of the candles. Children watching and learning as their parents perform the mitzvah, and then parents observing with pride as their children do the same. It is a time of unlimited capacity for holiness and connection.
In our times, however, it has become more and more challenging to see the full potential of this opportunity. Rings and buzzes, updates and emails grab our attention away from the lights and pull us away from each other. The light of our screens is blocking our vision from internalizing the glow of the Menorah.
Two years ago, TAG Chicago (The Technology Awareness Group) established a possible antidote- encouraging families to go “screen free” for the first 30 minutes after lighting candles. It is a small step that can have a huge impact on a family’s ability to tap into the tremendous potential of the Menorah and use that time to strengthen their bonds and add holiness to their home. Last year, the initiative expanded and was run out of the international headquarters of TAG in Lakewood.
This year, it has spread even further and now will be employed by thousands of Jews around the country, as the OU, Torah Umesorah and the Agudah have all given their full backing to the idea and agreed to share it with their entire networks of shuls, yeshivas and day schools.
By putting away our devices, we are enabling ourselves to soak in the light of the Menorah and see the preciousness of that which we have right in front of us. The time the candles are burning is one of the most auspicious moments throughout the entire year. With G-d’s help, we should have the strength and insight to capitalize on this time and allow the fire to light up our lives.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.