Two Jews, three opinions…In this case there are two. Two rabbis, Shammai and Hillel, who lived a little more than 2000 years ago, frequently argued about procedural issues. When it came to Hanukkah, they could not agree on the correct way to light the Hanukkah menorah.
Should the lights be lit one day at a time, ADDING one each night until on the eighth night the entire lamp is glowing? Or should all the light be lit on the first night with one being REMOVED each night until on the eighth night only one light is lit?
You all know how we do it- Hillel’s way. Hillel felt that adding a light each night showed increasing holiness.
They also argued about issues such as admission to Torah study and whether it’s OK to tell white lies. Hillel was much more lenient than Shammai. He said that anyone should be able to study. (Think open enrollment in colleges today)
Despite all these arguments- and the Talmud’s support for the Hillel side- the two men were arguing often for the sake of arguing, to clarify issues and make people think.
Things haven’t changed much. Don’t we do the same today?
I wonder how they would feel about the commercialization of Hanukkah. Remember that Hanukkah is a lot more than gifts. In fact, until the late 19th century, Purim was the gift-giving holiday. But as Christmas became more commercialized so did Hanukkah. And by the 1950s, gift giving became a prominent part of Hanukkah, to a large extent so that Jewish children would not feel deprived at Christmas time.
To paraphrase the introduction to the classic TV show The Lone Ranger, maybe we should return those less commercial days of yesteryear, when Hanukkah was simpler.
Here are some books that are perfect for Hanukkah reading or gift giving.
My Lucky Dreidel. Anthology with something for everyone
Ehrenberg, Queen of the Dosas. Multicultural
Hopkins, Hanukkah Lights. Illustrated short poems
Jenkins, All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah. Newly illustrated classic
Koffsky, Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor. Bravery and setting an example
Kresnsky, Hanukkah at Valley Forge. Inspiration for George Washington
Londner, Missing Letters: a dreidel story. Mystery
Markel, Hanukkah Hamster. Loneliness
Polacco, The Trees of the Dancing Goats. Neighborliness. Mitzvah of visiting the sick.
Robinson, Jackie’s Gift. Understanding
Stein, Hanukkah with Mazel. Cat story
Yacowitz, I Know an Old Lady who Swallowed a Dreidel. Features parodies of both the song and famous paintings.
Abramson, Rabbi Rocketpower and the Mystery of the Missing Menorah
Kimmel, Jar of Fools. Anthology
Franklin, How to spell Chanukah? Essays