Flickering on Fumes…Expanding the Light
Rabbi Rob’s Hanukkah Message -- December 2020
Shalom Temple Aaron Family!
What a true honor it is to be blessed to serve as rabbi of Temple Aaron. Thank you for your kindness and confidence in welcoming Loretta and me. We are so very humbled to be part of this wonderful congregational family.
Temple Aaron is continuing its tradition of tenacity that has stretched over so many generations. We have truly outstanding board leadership, benefactors and members from near and far. From my first visit there, I am always aware that there is something ethereal about Temple Aaron…there is a special spiritual quality that emanates from its holy precincts.
There is an interesting debate about lighting the Hanukkah lights between the ancient rabbis, Hillel and Shammai that appears in the Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 21b:5 that may help explain this ethereal quality of Temple Aaron:
“Shammai says: On the first day one kindles eight lights and, from there on, gradually decreases the number of lights until, on the last day of Hanukkah, they kindle one light.
And Hillel says: On the first day one kindles one light, and from there on, gradually increases the number of lights until, on the last day, they kindle eight lights.
Shammai argued to begin with eight lights, and that we take one away each night to illustrate the decrease in the oil as a way of magnifying the miracle, an ironic logic – suggesting that the “running on fumes,” is the essence of the miracle.
Hillel argues the opposite: We add a light each night to illustrate the expanding magnitude of the miracle displayed in the growing light each night.
As I thought about this it would appear that Temple Aaron is amazingly the embodiment of both Shammai’s and Hillel’s vision.
In the spirit of Shammai: Over so many decades Temple Aaron has managed to survive a decrease is its “oil,” to the point where the flame of Temple Aaron, literally, almost went out. And yet…even when there was barely a flame left…the miracle continues. The flame has never gone out. Even at the edge of the flame’s last flicker, with barely a fume, there was still the spirit of the Shamash, alive and well at Temple Aaron - the servant that gives light to the other lights – was still holding on, ready to keep even that “pintela” tiny flame alive. It just takes one spark, one flame, one shamash to keep the light from going out. And time and again, through the love and devotion of so many across the span of time – the spiritual, communal, family and historical light of Temple Aaron has not gone out and is flaming up, yet again.
And that brings us to Hillel: Temple Aaron is now at a moment where the light is growing every day like the lights on Hillel’s Hanukkah menorah. We are now seeing the miracle increase with new light as this next chapter in the grand history of Temple Aaron is being written.
It is this multifaceted miracle as symbolically described by Hillel and Shammai that holds the key to Temple Aaron’s ethereal presence. Temple Aaron is meant to thrive – whether there is a flickering flame or a fully illuminated fire. It will not go out!
May God bless Temple Aaron as we witness this renewing and growing miracle continue to grow long into the future!
Loretta and I send our love to the entire Temple Aaron family for a safe, healthy, hopeful and bright Hanukkah!
Rabbi Dr. Robert Lennick
Please join Rabbi Lennick at 10 am MT on the first Shabbat morning of each month for Torah Study on Zoom. Register here.