Dr. Gereboff's Head Notes
Let the Light Shine In
Light plays a distinctive role during Chanukah as it does in so many other holiday traditions that take place during the winter solstice. We light our chanukiot (menorahs) with the addition of a new candle each night. In the Talmud, there is a famous debate between Rabbis Hillel and Shamai. Shamai argued that on the first night we should light all eight candles and on each subsequent night we should eliminate one candle until we light only one candle on the last night. Shamai claimed that this would best represent the decreasing light from the flask of oil in the Chanukah narrative. Hillel argued that we should begin with one light and add on each night to represent the increasing joy and increasing miracle of the oil lasting for all eight nights. We know that Hillel’s argument is the one that prevailed and is the tradition that we carry on today.
Last week, I heard one class discussing this debate. It coincided with a conversation that I had that day with our administration team as we prepared for our next admissions event. Once again, we were discussing the value-added of a Jewish education. We were looking at examples from our Jewish Studies curricula that support and enhance our overall academic goals.
The particular Hillel/Shamai debate is a really good example of how Jewish studies is a value-added. It fits so well with our core values and with critical thinking goals – different opinions matter, there is a protocol and an art to debating, all positions need to be coherent and supported, and when one side prevails, the other side needs to accept it, respect it and move on.
Additionally, the prevailing opinion in this particular debate is inherently optimistic with the idea of increasing joy and light as the holiday progresses. As we celebrate this season of light, let’s notice how our students glow with ideas, how our teachers shine with insights, how our administrators burn with the love of learning and how our parents kindle the light of community. As we celebrate this holiday of light, let us remember that our school is a powerful source of light to our community.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach (happy holiday),
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