Countdown to Chanukah 14: Pri Eitz Chaim
The Mitzvah is to light the candles so that they burn from sunset until there are no longer people walking in the marketplace. (Shabbat 21b) The marketplace is understood by the Kabbalists as the haunting place of external forces – the “Chitzonim.” (Pri Eitz Chaim, Shaar Chanukah, Chapter 4)
King David offered thanks to God for guiding him to the Beit Midrash rather than to the marketplace. (Midrash Tehillim 109:59) The Chanukah candles represent God’s Hand that guides us toward Torah and holiness, and directs us away from places where we could be influenced by destructive forces. (Based on Kedushat Levi, Kedusha Chamishit, and Vayechi Yosef, Bechukotai 11)
We light the candles when light is beginning to fade, when we lose some of our clarity and are vulnerable to negative influences, until the marketplace has emptied, meaning, until we are safe from the Chitzonim.
Pray that the light of the candles will guide us toward good and away from destructive influences.