Dana Baruch lives in Austin, TX, where she has been teaching Melton for 17 years, is a Life-Coach and Organizational Consultant, and is the Founder of Austin Jewish Academy.
I love rituals. They help me connect history and meaning. Such is the case when lighting the chanukiyah—a ritual that reminds us of, among other things, the presence of light, even in the darkest moments. On all other nights, when we light candles we use a match. Why on Chanukah do we light candles with another “helper” candle—the shamash? The shamash flame is just like that of the other candles—it glows, flickers and emits light. What makes it so special that it lights all the others?
God created Light on the First Day of Creation, but it wasn’t until Day Four that God created the utilizer of Light, the shemesh (sun), to serve a declared purpose (to mark time). The shamash is like the shemesh—it, too, serves a purpose. The Rabbis teach that we are to let the light of the Chanukah candles just be (like Light on the First Day). We are forbidden to do anything by their light, but to just enjoy the light itself. Only by the light of the shamash are we permitted to “do”. Its purpose? To enable us to do things while the chanukiyah is lit.
This ritual also serves as a call-to-action reminder: When we utilize the shamash to light the other candles, we not only remember “a great miracle that happened there” (history), but we also engage in a deeply meaningful “hineini (here-I-am-right-now) moment”—to be positive change-agents who intentionally make light shine, especially in times of darkness.
What will you do to be the shamash and make the light shine whenever and wherever it is needed?