Sometimes we think that the way we observe traditional rituals is the only way that such rituals have ever been observed. We have only to look at the Talmud to discover one of the well-known discussions as to how to light the Chanukah menorah. Following Hillel, we add one candle each night. Shammai, however, taught that we should light eight candles the first night and decrease the number each night thereafter. Perhaps this practice more accurately evokes the experience of the miracle, which is the essence of the Chanukah story.
Although we follow the school of Hillel in most matters, this particular teaching of the school of Shammai offers a special message to us: the quality of our lives can be more important than the quantity of our possessions, our activities, or even our days. Even the single candle can bring light, purpose, and fulfillment.
In our high-tech world, which grows more complex each day, we continue to receive comfort and inspiration from the simple light of the candles. It is no coincidence that the festivals of light converge across cultures at this darkest, coldest season. When the moon is obscured and the winter solstice is close, we celebrate the greatest gift of Chanukah, and that is light. May our prayers, tzedakah, and deeds of lovingkindness spark hope and strength and illuminate our lives with renewed meaning, perspective, and direction.
L’hitra’ot, until next time!