26 Nov Countdown to Chanukah 22
“One may not make a blessing over a candle until one has benefited from its light.” (Berachot 51b) This is why we turn off the lights for Havdala, so we can benefit from the light of the Havdala candle. However, we may not derive benefit or pleasure from the Chanukah candles, so how can we recite the blessing?
Our Sages taught that we must study the laws of each holiday in order to adequately prepare for the holiday. (Megillah 32b, based on Leviticus 23:44) This is why we are writing these series of Countdown to Chanukah and Lights.
The Shelah (Masechet Shabbat, Derech Chaim Tochachot Musar “U’lvo.) teaches that this is true of every Mitzvah, that we must prepare before performing the Mitzvah, by reviewing its laws. My father zt”l would review the laws of comforting mourners before paying a shiva call, and the laws of honoring one’s Rebbi before visiting or even calling Rabbi Hutner zt”l, his Rebbi. I review the laws of Honoring One’s Parents before I visit my mother in Baltimore.
The Shelah elaborates, “For it is the candle of the Mitzvah and the light of Torah,” (Proverbs 7:23) that the performance of the Mitzvah is the candle, but it can only be fueled and in turn provide illumination by studying the Torah of the Mitzvah.
This is how we can fulfill the Rabbinic dictum of benefiting from the candle before reciting the blessing: We must study the laws and fuel the candle and its power to illuminate by awareness of its laws and lessons.