Rabbi Kenter on Hanukkah: Not Quite the Jewish Christmas

Published: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 7:00 am By: Rabbi Barry A. Kenter Source: Huffington Post
to know that it is safe. To each and everyone one of us in entrusted the sacred task of caring for the cruse that will yet illuminate the world.

By extension, how do we view our world and our place in it? Do we depend on miracles and leave everything to God? Or, while heeding Solomon Schechter's advice to "leave a little to God," do we work to make a difference?

In the Hanukkah ritual, there is a candle called the shammash, the "helper candle." On each of the nights of Hanukkah, the shammash is used to kindle the lights for each successive night. Well in advance of Michael Cronon, Lab126 and the branding of the best-selling Kindle, we Jews have been commanded to kindle the lights of Hanukkah. As the shammash touches each successive candle, the flame from the helper merges with as yet unlit candle; the flame rises higher. One on one, person to person, we are to light and ignite, to fuel and to turn on those with whom we have contact -- we are all shemmashot, we are all helper candles. Our job is to set others on fire, to spark and kindle within them all that can be done to make a difference and transform the world. And in so doing, we do not need to be like everyone else. As I wrote for our nursery students:

Sometimes I like to be like everyone else
- and sometime I don't.
Sometimes I like putting on my blue shirt, because my friend Sam is wearing a blue shirt - and sometimes I don't.
Sometimes I like to drink apple juice -- and sometimes I don't.
Sometimes I like to eat my lunch -- and sometimes I don't.
Sometimes I make a lot of noise -- and sometimes I don't.
Sometimes I like to wear a red shirt and drink orange juice
and eat my lunch and not make noise.
Sometimes I do what everyone else is doing -- and sometimes I don't.
Sometimes I like to be not like everybody else.
Sometimes I like to be different.
Sometimes I like to light two Shabbat candles.
Sometimes I like to light more candles.
On Hanukkah I light candles every night for eight days.
The lights get brighter and brighter and brighter.
Every night is different.
Being different is OK.
Every night is special.
I like Hanukkah.

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