Don’t let the light go out

The Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem

Hanukkah is over, but I was glad to see that the menorah still shone brightly this evening in Jerusalem. It had rained while we were in the movie theater, and as we came out, we saw the glistening sky and the light of many menorahs still glowing after the holidays.

On the seventh night, we went to our congregation to sing songs and welcome the Shabbat. There were many menorahs lit, most with seven candles as the tradition, according to Hillel, is to light one more light each night for seven days until the menorah is full of eight lights. Another tradition, according to Shammai, is that each night one light is diminished. So there were also menorahs with only two lights on that cold Friday evening.

How do we understand this? What do we make of these two disparate traditions and what is our lesson?

According to the legend, there was enough oil for one day and instead, the oil burned in the Temple for eight days. I imagine each day it was diminished, but it continued to burn. A memorial candle is diminished each day, yet burns for seven days. So, it would make sense to diminish the light each day.

However, Hillel argues that since the miracle was more and more astounding with each passing day that the lights need to burn in ever increasing brightness to accentuate that, indeed, a great miracle happened here.The real issue, however, as my Rabbi pointed out is this. How are we going to keep our light burning? How are we going to make sure that we have enough oil to keep shining, keep burning, and keep doing what we need to do to shed a little bit of light in our corner of the world?

What are we being called to do? How are we being called to light up the darkness, and how will make sure that our influence and passion is not extinguished by malevolent forces, either within or without?

January is cold. The winter holidays are over, and there is rain. Many people are suffering from illness, and the joy of celebration can give way to feelings of letdown and loneliness.

In some cases, grown children have come and now have gone again. Perhaps we had looked forward to a different kind of holiday, and our hopes have been thwarted.

It doesn’t take much to let our light be extinguished. But, as we learned so long ago, a little is a lot when placed in The Master’s hand. The oil was enough. A little boy’s lunch was enough. You have enough, and so do I.

Don’t let the light go out. It will soon be warm again.

This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion, January 15, 2017, and reposted with permission.