The Talmud [in Shabbat 21b] records a debate regarding Chanukah: Bet Shammai say we start with eight lights and remove one each day. Bet Hillel say we start with one light and add one more each day. We follow Bet Hillel, applying the principle מעלין בקדש ואין מורידין ma’alin bakodesh v’ayn moridin—we ascend in holiness, and we don’t descend.
So we light one additional candle each night. We maintain what we achieved the previous night, and then we also take one small step forward, adding a light where previously it had been dark.
The chanukiyah can be a visual symbol of our Mussar path. We make progress by small increments. Each test, each “night,” is an opportunity to shine light where previously it had been dark, and so to rise another step higher. Ma’alin bakodesh—we ascend in holiness.
The chanukiyah is a relatively small symbol. In eight days the chanukiyah reaches its full potential, with lights shining in each designated place. In contrast, we humans achieve our potential over a lifetime. We add a little more light each day. And over the years, we gather up—and shine out—a great light.
I’m grateful to my loving spouse, Tina Fein Dinitz, for the core ideas in this reflection and for adding light in the world, day by day.
© Rick Dinitz, 2018
Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash