To Be; To Serve
We’ve spoken of the three holidays during this time and in some detail about Kwanzaa. Tonight the eighth candle of Hanukah will be lit, each candle having significance in the commemoration of the miracle of the struggle of the Maccabees.
Many believe Hanukah serves to remind us that life is a struggle and we find joy when we participate in that struggle. Those that celebrate Hanukah often do so believing that, to quote Rabi Levi Ben Levy, “the past [serves] in a way that transforms who we are in the present, which in turn, affects what we may do in the future. If you fight for life, salvation is won. It is in the victory of life that we find joy.”
The eight days of Hanukah are broken down into central concepts for each day. One is concerned with their Creator, another in studying the oral and written tenets of the Judaic faith. The third days recognizes that Judaism is an Abrahamic faith and those that follow it are children of Abraham, a belief shared by Christians and Muslims. On the fourth day unity is emphasized, a unity that sadly has seldom been lived here on earth.
The fifth day is dedicated to the words of Moses and special note is made of the 365 positive commandments which correlate with the 365 days of the year. The remaining 248 negative commandments some feel correspond with the same number of organs in the human body and this is used to illustrate the need for peace within and with one’s neighbors.
The sixth and seventh days are associated with creation, the six days the Hebrews and Christians belief in which creation took place of the earth, heavens, and all living things, as well as the seven orifices on the human face. These orifices are considered gates through which things are taken in and are said to relate to the seven days of the week.
One could argue these points, especially those that reference the calendar because the Jewish faith does not follow the standard calendar. On the Hebrew calendar this is Year 5777-8, for example. They do have seven days a week and belief that the world was created in six days but comparisons could be difficult is one really delved into the subject. Metaphors are good, though, and help us remember basic facts.
Life is difficult and whether one is struggling to make oil in a lamp last or stretch a dollar to cover all necessary items for living, such celebrations give us hope. Even for those of us who are not Jewish, Hanukah serves to remind us of several important things. First, that our faith is seen by all we encounter. We wear it as visibly as we do our clothes. The menorah is placed in a window so that all may see and know. Our faith dictates our behavior and it is the walk we walk and not just the talk we talk that gives meaning to our beliefs.
My particular favorite thing of Hanukah is the Shamash candle. It is sometimes called the “server candle” because it is with the Shamash candle that the other eight candles of Hanukah are lit. Shamash is the Akkadian name for the sun god of the religion native to the Mesopotamia region. He was also considered the deity of justice. King Hammurabi left evidence that gave credit to Shamash for his famous code by which most legal codes are written and the admonition to “love they neighbor as thyself” which occurs in most religions is derived.
The Shamash candle reminds us, just as the other eight candles do, of a very important aspect of living – the importance of serving. On this the first day of a new year, according to the standard calendar, the eight candle of Hanukah will be lit with the Shamash candle. The eighth candle is one of retrospection, rejuvenation, refortification and thereby, giving us a rededicated mind.
On this first day of January in the year 2017 or the third day of Tevet in the year 5777, how will you be a server? It is our purpose to not just take and experience but to serve others, to share in life. On this day, many will make resolutions for a brighter future to forge pathways to be as bright as the sun god Shamash. I hope you will also be a server candle and help another find their way towards a better tomorrow for us all.