D’var Torah Chanukah Dec.7, 2018

As we mark the 5th night of Chanukah 5779 tonight, let’s take a minute to look at a famous Talmudic text:  The debate between the disciples of Rabbis Hillel and Shammai over how to light the Chanukah menorah.  (Talmud Shabbat 21b)  Our tradition follows the teaching of Hillel, but Shammai made a pretty good position statement as well!  The question was: In recalling the miracle of the oil in the Temple, should we light 8 candles the first night and take one away each night, or start with one and add each night? The House of Shammai argued that since the supply of oil started out strong and diminished over the 8 days of the first Chanukah holiday, it makes sense to start with more light and end with less.  But the Hillel group came back with this response:  “The candles, the house of Hillel said, are reflections not of the event, but of the miracle. Not the light, but the wonder and the awe about it. And besides, they say: we add to holiness, we do not take away from it.”  (After Rabbi Michael Feshbach at reformjudaism.org.)  Chag Urim Samei’ach (Happy Festival of Lights) to all!