The following message was shared on the final night of Chanukah with the Congregation Beth El community:
Tonight, as we celebrate the final night of Chanukah, we’ll admire the full illumination of the chanukiyah, the Chanukah menorah. Every candle will be lit, every flame will be burning bright. Lighting the menorah to its full brilliance is joyful, even though we know it means that the conclusion of the holiday is near.
The uniqueness of the commandment to kindle the lights of the menorah is the requirement to first light the shamash, the helper candle, and to use that candle to light others. It is an acknowledgement that sometimes we cannot create light on our own. We depend on others to help us see the light; to help us be the light.
That is the essence of community. The beauty of Beth El is our obligation, responsibility, and opportunity to be the light for one another. We are there as the shamash to help you find light during times of grief and mourning, and we are there to help spread your light during celebration. Our community can also serve as sliver of light in a sometimes dark world, standing up for each other — and with each other — in the face of adversity.
As powerful as a single candle in the darkness is on that first night of Chanukah, it pales in comparison to the power of the fully lit menorah tonight. The light of a single flame is increased by the other candles of the menorah. So too, our light — our own unique light as individuals — has the power to light up the darkness. But our own light is increased when surrounded by the light of others.
We find that light through learning, and we find that light through witnessing our children learn. We spread that light through prayer, and we find that light through activism. We light up each other as we build community together.
As we watch the candles slowly burn this evening, let us be inspired by the power of the light of a full menorah. Let us remember the power of being unified, of coming together, of being there for one another and knowing that others will be there for us. May the lights of the menorah inspire us to be that light for each other, and may we always find that light in our community.
Chag Urim Sameach!
– Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky