Gershon Hepner

The Major in which Jews are Taught to Graduate

Beit Shammai says: “Be realistic.

Decrease the candles.  This statistic

demands that though eight candles burn

the first night, on the next night spurn

one candle, until on the last

just one remains.”  They say the past

has got less power than the present,

and cannot claim to be as pleasant,

since life is downhill from the start.

The horse comes first, and then the cart,

an anticlimax to the horse,

because it lacks its primal force.


Beit Hillel says: “Keep always trying:

that way you won’t see fire dying.

Increased by candlepower, light

defeats the dying of the night.

One caveat only, we must wait

until the last night to have eight.

That way each night we will remember

springtime can come in mid-December.”


Quite unrealistic! Yet we follow

Beit Hillel, believing that one swallow

can make a summer, for we know

that others will put on a show

that is a hit, but trust the first,

for it alone the darkness cursed.

By shining zeh haqatan gadol’s aura

the minor validates menorah,

not Anglicized as a majorah,

due to the rule of Beit Hillel:

to every day be more enlightened,

by unenlightened folk not frightened,

and, majoring in light, made great,

each day a brighter graduate.



The Babylonian Talmud discusses a controversy regarding the number of lights that must be lit on each night of Hanukkah, stating in Shabbat 21b:


Beit Shammai says: On the first day we kindle eight lights and, from there on, gradually decrease the number of lights until, on the last day of Hanukkah, we kindle one light.

And Beit Hillel says: On the first day we kindle one light, and from there on, gradually increase the number of lights until, on the last day, we kindle eight lights.

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at