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Two Minutes of Torah: Chanukah Bonus - Adding our light

This week across America people will be celebrating the festival of Hanukkah.  When we look at the National Jewish populations it was clear that it is the most observed festival in the American Jewish community.  In 2000 72% of respondents to that survey said that they light candles for Hanukkah; this was compared with only 67% holding a Passover Seder and 59% fasting on Yom Kippur.

Hanukkah is clearly a popular holiday. Part of its success comes from the popularity of gift giving and part of its success comes from its proximity to a certain festival celebrated by our Christian friends and neighbors.  Either way around our homes, across the country, people will be lighting Hanukkah Menorahs in celebration of the festival. 

On the first night we will light one light, and on the second night two and so on and so forth till on the eighth night we have eight lights for each day of the festival.  It was not necessarily always going to be that way.  In the Talmus there is actually a debate recorded between the schools of Hillel and Shammai.  These two rabbis disagreed about everything; there was always the view of Beit Hillel and always the opposing view of Beit Shammai. 

We read that Shammai actually suggested that on the first night of Hanukkah we should light eight candles and take away a light for each subsequent night; so that on that final night there would be just one candle lit.  Hillel argued that on the first night of Hanukkah we should light one candle and add a light each subsequent night.  As you might have guessed Hillel won the argument. 

What it means is that the each night of Hanukkah we add more light into this world.  Had we followed Shammai’s suggestion it could have been a very depressing holiday with it getting darker and darker each night.  Instead we follow Hillel and we add light. 

The question for us as we light our Hanukkah Menorah is how are we bringing light into this world beyond lighting the individual lights?  What is it that we can do to make this world a lighter place? 

Hanukkah comes at the darkest time of the year, and in our world we can see that there is plenty of darkness with people suffering, with the refugee crisis, with ongoing wars and bloodshed.  Our Hanukkah challenge is not just to bring light by lighting candles, but to bring light through our actions.  Then, in that way, we can emulate the Maccabees as heroes bringing light not just into our homes but into the whole world. 

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