If Hanukkah is coming, and one is struggling to pay their bills, and has to make a choice between buying oil/candles for Hanukkah versus Shabbat wine and Shabbat candles, which should that person buy?
While I hope none of us end up having to make this desperate choice, it is the framework the rabbis of the Talmud use to get to core values - when you strip away our comfort, what value shines forth as the most important?
Shabbat wine is meant to be a splurge - something special beyond the day-to-day expenses, so that we can raise a glass, sanctify the Sabbath day and declare it holy. It is also something that is regular and therefore usually takes precedence. However, in this case the Hanukkah lights are more important - because they represent the miracle. More about that in a moment.
Between Shabbat candles and Hanukkah candles, the rabbis say that Shabbat candles are the most important. Why? Because on Friday nights when lights are needed to eat dinner and celebrate Shabbat - if you don't turn the light on, there won't be peace in the house. Therefore - even more important than advertising the miracle of Hanukkah - you need to make sure you have peace in the house.
This is where Maimonides adds a statement in his summary of this conversation- He says that for those experiencing poverty, they should give away or loan their clothes to make sure that they have Hanukkah lights.
Because the miracle represents hope.
Without hope, there is no foundation to build into the future. Without hope, all is lost. The Hanukkah lights represent the shining of hope into the dark world. I pray on this Hanukkah, that our homes are filled with light and joy, gladness and peace. And may the light of hope shine out as a beacon into our world.
Chag Orim Sameach - Happy Hanukkah