One life lesson of Chanukah, by Rabbi Evan Moffic

But Jesus is the light

John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

Note from Debbie: Christians around the world lit their first Advent candles yesterday, celebrating the “New Year” of the church calendar. Believing “Christianity is Jewish,” and the Old Testament points to Jesus, I share this lovely reflection by Rabbi Moffic, author of What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Jewishness of Jesus:

The Jewish festival of Chanukah has begun. It celebrates religious freedom.

A group known as the Maccabees fought the Hellenistic King Antiochus and refused to stop worshipping in their Temple. After a fierce battle, the Maccabees won and found a hidden jar of oil in the Temple. The oil burned for eight nights.

Thus, every year, for eight nights, we light candles to celebrate our freedom. It’s a beautiful holiday.

Shutterstock: tomertu

Light One Candle

But here’s one interesting detail you might not know: Rabbis throughout history have debated the proper way to light the candles. Here’s one example.

Let’s say it is the eighth night of Chanukah. and you have lit all eight candles. Then one of the candles goes out. Can you use one of the other lit candles to light the candle that went out?

One rabbi said we should not light the unlit candle with another candle because that would diminish the flame of the lit candle. Inevitably we would spill some of the wax or the oil of the lit candle, and Jewish law says we cannot diminish any of the Chanukah lights.

But another rabbi said we can use one candle to light another because we are bringing more light into the world. In other words, a candle is never diminished when it lights another candle. Rather, its flame is enhanced.

You are the Candle

This debate is about more than Chanukah candle. It is about the best way to live.

No human being is diminished when we help another person. When we give our time or our resources, we are not losing anything. Rather, we are gaining because we are bringing more light into another person’s life, and into the life of our community.

We Gain When We Give

Human life is not zero-sum. We do not lose when we give. Just like the Chanukah candles, we gain when we give.

As we look at the Chanukah lights this year, let’s imagine we are one of those candles. And then let us ask ourselves: How can we make our flame brighter? How can we add more light to the world?

Let that be our challenge and vision for the New Year.

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