The Light of Chanukah
The festival of Chanukah is known by another name – חג הָאוּרִים (chag ha’urim) – the Festival of Lights.
This is because this is a festival full of light as we light candles every night.
As you know, this holiday lasts for eight days. So let’s learn eight phrases with the word אוֹר (ohr) light.
אוֹר רִאשׁוֹן (ohr rishon) First Light
אוֹר רִאשׁוֹן (ohr rishon) the first light of the day, in other words – sunrise, dawn
אוֹר אַחֲרוֹן (ohr acharon) the last light of the day, in other words – sunset, twilight
When we want to refer to an ‘earliest time of the day’ we can say אוֹר רִאשׁוֹן (ohr rishon). As if to say, the first moment that the sun lights up the sky. This time of day is known also as שַׁחַר (shachar) dawn.
On the flip side, the expression אוֹר אַחֲרוֹן (ohr acharon) means the moment just before the sky goes completely dark, when the last rays of the sun are seen.
הָאוֹר הַגָנוּז (ha’ohr ha’ganuz) The Hidden Light
This expression refers to a unique kind of light that no longer exists in the world.
This phrase comes from the following tradition: According to the Bible, on the first day of creation, the Almighty created the light and then separated between light and dark. However, we read that on the fourth day of creation, G-d created the sun and moon, which is the source of light that we know today. This being the case, what happened to the light of the first day? Is it the same light as the fourth day?
So the tradition explains:
After the Almighty created the sun and the moon, He had to do something with the light of the first day. He thought about where to put it. The angels gave various suggestions, but none of them were good enough.
In the end, G-d decided to put this light in a special place – inside the soul of each and every person.
If a person does good deeds, his soul shines outward, but if he behaves badly, then his soul becomes dark.
Therefore, this light is called the hidden light – the light that is hidden within each and every one of us.
יָצָא לָאוֹר (yatza la’ohr)
This phrase literally means “came out to the light.” It describes a phenomenon in which something that was in “darkness” came out to the light.
It is primarily used to refer to the publication of something, like a book, newspaper, or the like. These things “come into the light” from being in the “darkness” of someone’s thoughts. In this case, the phrase means was published.
It can also be used to mean – was revealed – specifically the truth. One could say that הָאֱמֶת יָצְאָה לָאוֹר (ha’emet yatza la’ohr) the truth came out.
בְּנֵי אוֹר (bnei ohr) Sons of Light
This expression is used to refer to good people, who do good deeds. According to the ideology and vision of the Qumran sect (end of the Second Temple period), they were the sons of light. Their prophecies said that, at the end of days, there will be a war between the sons of light and then sons of darkness. Of course, at the end, the sons of lightness will be victorious and the sons of darkness and wickedness will disappear from the world.
אוֹר חָדָשׁ (ohr chadash) New Light
This phrase expresses the idea of a time period that will be completely good.
There is a prayer that includes the words “אוֹר חָדָשׁ עַל צִיוֹן תָאִיר” (ohr chadash al tzi’yon ta’ir) a new light on Zion will shine. This prayer expresses a request that a new spirit will come to Zion, which means the Land of Israel.
The prayer continues “וְנִזְכֶּה כּוּלָנוּ בִּמְהֵרָה לְאוֹרוֹ” (venizkeh kulanu bimhera le’oro) and we’ll all merit quickly His light. This expresses the desire to bask in the special light of the Almighty very soon.
הֵאִיר אֶת עֵינָיו (he’ir et enav) Lit up his eyes, enlightened
The expressions we have explained up until now, dealt with important and spiritual things, such as the “hidden light” or the “new light” that we all hope to experience.
However, today’s expression deals with something relatively simple.
This expression refers to a situation in which a person explains something to someone else. By enlightening him to a new concept or term, it’s as if he showed him the light. Like a ‘lightbulb’ went off in his head.
There is another similar expression – אוֹרוּ עֵינָיו (oru enav) literally his eyes lit up. This expression describes a person who is overjoyed to hear good news and his face and eyes light up.
נֵרוֹ יָאִיר (nero ya’ir) May his light shine
This expression comes to express a blessing and important prayer – that the person should continue to live a good life.
This blessing is not necessarily used when talking about a sick person, but can be a wish for any individual.
You can often find it written next to a person’s name on a Bar Mitzvah or wedding invitation.
The “opposite” expression to this one is זַ”ל (zal) which stands for זִכְרוֹ לִבְרָכָה (zichro livracha) remembered for good, may his memory be for a blessing. This is used when referring to someone who is no longer alive.
Have a happy Chanukah!
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