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chanukah candles
Rabbi Ari Enkin

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

One of many lessons that Chanukah teaches us is to be proud of our achievements, while always striving to accomplish more. Most important is not to be discouraged.

There is a famous dispute in the Talmud as to how the Chanukah candles should be lit. Beit Hillel (“the school of Hillel”) was of the opinion that on the first night of Chanukah, we light one candle, on the second night of Chanukah two candles, then three, then four, and so on. This is because Beit Hillel felt it was important that the candles show how many days of Chanukah have passed, or in other words, which day of Chanukah it is today.

Beit Shammai (“the school of Shammai”), however, was of the opinion that on the first night of Chanukah, eight candles should be lit, seven candles on the second day, six candles on the third day, and so on. This is because Beit Shammai felt that it was important that the candles show how many days of Chanukah are left.

Jewish law follows the view of Beit Hillel. One Chanukah candle is lit on the first night, and so on.

There is an important message that can be learned from the Beit Hillel-Beit Shammai dispute. From Beit Hillel we learn that it doesn’t matter how much you haven’t done or how much you have left to do, but rather, what you have accomplished. No one can accomplish everything, and Hillel teaches us that we shouldn’t chew ourselves out for what we have yet to accomplish. Be proud of your accomplishments, but tomorrow is another day to do more.

Our sages teach us that that after the Messiah comes, Jewish law will follow the opinion of Beit Shammai. Indeed, there are many disputes between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, and in almost all cases, we follow Beit Hillel. But as mentioned, one day soon, we will be following the opinion of Beit Shammai. (That, however, is a topic beyond the scope of this article.)

With this, we can derive an important lesson in the opinion of Beit Shammai. In the Messianic era, when we will have more peace of mind to accomplish more, especially in the spiritual dimension, we will be expected to worry about “how much we have left.” The lesson is that we should never let our potential “decrease.” We must never let down our guard or our motivation. As they say, “Don’t rest on your laurels.” This is the message of Beit Shammai.

But I say: Combine the messages of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai even nowadays! Take the approach of Beit Hillel first and foremost, namely, don’t worry too much about what you haven’t done. But at the same time, infuse what you do with the enthusiasm and expectations of Beit Shammai, and you’ll accomplish more than you ever thought imaginable!

Chanukah articles

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