Menachem Creditor

How much light? A Hannukah meditation

“תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: מִצְוַת חֲנוּכָּה, נֵר אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ. וְהַמְהַדְּרִין, נֵר לְכׇל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד. וְהַמְהַדְּרִין מִן הַמְהַדְּרִין, בֵּית שַׁמַּאי אוֹמְרִים: יוֹם רִאשׁוֹן מַדְלִיק שְׁמֹנָה, מִכָּאן וְאֵילָךְ פּוֹחֵת וְהוֹלֵךְ. וּבֵית הִלֵּל אוֹמְרִים: יוֹם רִאשׁוֹן מַדְלִיק אַחַת, מִכָּאן וְאֵילָךְ מוֹסִיף וְהוֹלֵךְ. …”
“The Sages taught: The basic mitzvah of Hannukah is each day to have one light kindled per household. And the “mehadrin” (beautifiers of tradition) kindle a light for each and every one in the household. And the “mehadrin min hamehadrin” (extreme beautifiers) adjust the number of lights daily. Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagree as to the nature of that adjustment: Beit Shammai begins with eight lights and decreases each night. Beit Hillel begins with one light and adds one each night…” (TB Shabbat 21b)
Perhaps we aren’t so different from our early teachers as we might have thought, neither in the questions we ask nor in the responses we generate.
How much light is sufficient? One light that can pierce the darkness. But the world deserves more than the minimum. Every person contains light within themselves, and sharing it is beautiful. But really, it’s even better than that. Some of us feel inner illumination from the start, and some build our way into that inner light. Some of us feel just a small inner space where the light lives and release more and more of it each day. Because we all do our work in the world, there’s abundance in the beginning and there’s abundance in the end.
You are bathed in light.
We are enough for this world.
There is beauty ahead.
About the Author
Rabbi Menachem Creditor serves as the Pearl and Ira Meyer Scholar in Residence at UJA-Federation New York and was the founder of Rabbis Against Gun Violence. An acclaimed author, scholar, and speaker with over 2 million views of his online videos and essays, he was named by Newsweek as one of the fifty most influential rabbis in America. His 31 books and 6 albums of original music include "A Year of Torah," the global anthem "Olam Chesed Yibaneh" and the COVID-era 2-volume anthology "When We Turned Within." He and his wife Neshama Carlebach live in New York, where they are raising their five children.
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