The word “Hanukkah” means both dedication and education. The last day is called “Zot Hanukkah,” meaning “This is Hanukkah” and embodies the essence of the entire festival. It comes from the Torah reading on this day, referring to the dedication of the altar in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

On the question of what is the correct order to light the Hanukkah candles, there was a dispute between two prominent Torah scholars, Shammai and Hillel, in the 1st century CE. Their two schools of thoughts prompted vigorous debates on matters of ritual practice, ethics, and theology. Hillel’s opinion was more lenient and tolerant of the two, and shaped Jewish oral Law.

House of Shammai, held that on first day of Hanukkah we should focus on the potential of all the days, and light the candles starting with eight and decreasing each night. Shammai argued that decreasing the lights is a metaphor for shedding our differences and divisions until only the ONE unity endures.

The House of Hillel believed that we should focus on things as they exist, light one candle each night, and increase to full potential. Hillel’s interpretation is a symbol that each person matters, and that only by numbers and uplifting others can we contribute to the increasing illumination of the world.

As in most cases, Halachah favored Hillel. It also emphasized the symbolic importance of faith: that even in our darkest hours, we should keep our inner flame burning and never lose hope. World redemption will come when each one redeems himself. Let’s each shine our light brightly, and may we merit to live in a peaceful world and see the dawn of a new day.

“My little Ray,” The voice began
you have not been forsaken
but you must do the most you can
your light to shine and brighten.

You keep on looking out to see
a light for you to follow,
but for a Ray, the way to be
is to illuminate the hollow.

Do not wait for lights to guide you
for they will surely not!
You are the flame, the first in line
to kindle the whole lot.

Look around you if you will
and see those who have forgotten—
they, too, await for lights to thrill
no action they have taken.

For bliss to come upon the valley
intent is not enough
nor prayers or wishes—they are folly,
an act—is where it’s at.

It takes one light to spark the void
for others to join and follow—
in resolute, your inner sun
will glow a brilliant hallo.”

Light and darkness part to part
are shades of just decisions
as rays illuminate the hearts
they shed all confusions.
Except from “The Little Ray”
©Yakira Shimoni Fulks | for Asaf
July 3, 1998 | Graymoor, IL