The First Candle: Looking Forward or Looking Backward?

There was an argument about lighting the Hanukkah candles between two famous Sages: HIllel and Shammai.  The holiday of Hanukkah was shaped on the holiday of Sukkot. During Sukkot, we offered 70 sacrifices for all the nations of the world.  We started with 70 the first day and offered a few less every day of the holiday. Because we started with a number that symbolized the totality of holiness, Shammai argued that Hanukkah should also start by lighting 8 candles the first night and reducing each night by 1.  That way we honour our past and maintain the impact of holiness into the world. Hillel argued that we should understand our past but always look forward in time and increase holiness in the world.  

Do we use our past to inspire our future (Hillel) or do we use our past to shape our future (Shammai)?  Both present compelling arguments.  

Hillel’s argument carried the day.  We begin with 1 candle and increase candles every night.  

Hanukkah inspires us to elevate ourselves as we move forward.

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