In the Talmud's discussion of Ḥanukkah (Shabbat 22a-b) there's a disagreement about how one can possibly make practical use of the candles. The candles are meant only to be seen and enjoyed, as they are a concrete symbol of the miracle of Ḥanukkah, and not used, for example, to read by. But if the goal of lighting the candles is to share the miracle as widely as possible, one might be able to use one Ḥanukkah lamp to light another. In the Talmud's discussion, Rav says that one may not use one Ḥanukkah lamp to light another and Shmuel says that one may.
The Talmud then tries to sharpen the argument, parsing out the underlying issues as well as Rav's and Shmuel's reasoning. Is it just lighting that accomplishes the mitzvah or is it placing the ḥanukiyyah by the entry? Does lighting from lamp to lamp weaken the mitzvah, as the oil consumed in kindling the next lamp would have otherwise just been used for illumination? It's an interesting debate and, in talmudic fashion, doesn't *quite* reach a clear conclusion. But at this moment, I'm connecting with this passage much more for the metaphors I see in its words than its halakhic conclusions.
What does it mean to light from lamp to lamp? Especially as we approach Ḥanukkah, I think of all the ways we share our light with each other - acts of ḥesed, caring for each other, offering encouragement, enjoying time together (please join us for Chanukah Funukah this Saturday night!). And I also feel a real need for more light to spread in our world.
We've all noticed and heard about the massive uptick in antisemitism since the horrors of October 7. While not tremendously surprising, the indifference of leaders both local and international to this upsetting trend has left many of us feeling alone and unsure of who our friends really are. Over the past few days, there have also been a number of concerning pieces of news in this area. Making international news was the congressional hearing that had several high-profile university presidents responding to a question that "asked directly if 'calling for the genocide of Jews' is against the codes of conduct [of their universities, the] presidents said the answer depended on the context."
More locally, Baltimore City Council member Yitzy Schleifer introduced a resolution at a recent City Council meeting condemning the attacks of October 7 as well as antisemitism. The measure failed to pass, with only 9 yea votes out of the necessary 12. Four council members abstained.
There's a lot of darkness out there. This is the time of year when we both need light the most AND have the tools to bring more light into our world. This year, more than in any other year, I'm with Shmuel over Rav. Let us light from lamp to lamp, sharing our light with each other, just as we bring light to our ḥanukiyyot.
Ḥag urim sameaḥ - may we all have a very happy holiday of light!