I dedicate these divrei Torah:
L’ilui nishmas (to elevate the souls) of Aliza bas Sarah ob”m and her three children, taken too soon in a fire accident just a few days ago…
As a Refuah Sheleima for their survivors – husband and father Yoseif ben Ahuvah Masuda, children Shilat bas Aliza, Avraham ben Aliza, Daniel ben Aliza, and their cousin – and for nechama and koach for them in this indescribably difficult time.
Please daven or recite Tehillim for them.  Just as Hashem made miracles for us in the past, so may He make another miracle for them today.


The following thought is a mashal (parable) of my own, discovered and refined this Chanukah:

The Chanukiyah (or Menorah) stands patiently, beside either oil or candles according to custom, longing to be kindled alight with holy flames.

The little wax candles or cups of oil are identical and jumbled.  Neither bearer of light knows who’s going to be chosen to play what role.  Who will be the Shamash, the servant torch?  Who will be grouped into the 8 counting lights?

At long last, the lighter arrives to the table by the window, where the Chanukiyah and its supplies are waiting.  His hand reaches down, carefully selecting which will serve as Shamash, and which will stand in the 8.  Then, he takes the match, strikes it, and ignites the channels of light.  The Chanukiyah glows richly, each detail illuminated and endowed with a purpose.

So it is with us – Am Yisrael, the rest of the world, and Ribono Shel Olam.

Who are we really?  We’re human beings, created b’tzelem Elokim (in G-d’s image) exactly like the rest of civilization.  Is there more to our identity than that though?  Of course.  You may have heard that Am Yisrael is called “the Chosen People,” but one might ask “Is this arrogant?  Is this egotistic?  Superficial, or even, G-d forbid, racist?”

Absolutely not.

What if one recognizes that this concept and belief truly emanated from Hashem Himself?  Prior to Matan Torah (the Giving of the Torah), Hashem asked all the nations of the world if they would preserve a gift and law, the Torah that He offered them.  Yet each one declined, until Hashem reached Bnei Yisrael.  At this proposal we cried out “Na’aseh v’nishma – We will do and we will listen,” in total acceptance of the undertaking and privelege.  It’s a declaration that echoes throughout all our generations and ages.  Matan Torah, the Giving of the Torah, is compared to a wedding between Am Yisrael and Ribono Shel Olam, for it was then that we pledged a wholehearted and unbreakable devotion to Hashem, Who in turn swore His unwavering support, love and guidance.  This sentiment was reiterated by Moshe Rabbeinu before his passing (preceding Bnei Yisrael’s entrance to Eretz Yisrael), when he said:

“Hayom hazeh nih’yayta l’am la’Hashem Elokecha/This day you have become a people to Hashem your G-d.”  {Devarim 27:9}

The Torah once more testifies to our attachment with Hashem:

“V’amarta el-Paroh: ‘Ko amar Hashem ‘B’ni B’chori Yisrael.” – And you shall say to Pharaoh: ‘So said the Lord: ‘Israel is My firstborn son.””  {Shemos 4:22}

This is not at all about ego.  We do not say we are better than other people.  There are all different kinds of characters in every group…  Rather, we are called “Chosen”, for we’ve been charged with a sacred mission.  We teach, learn and inspire; we build, fix and create; we grow…  But the essence of all we do, is to elevate the world around us.  We must find Hashem and His Divine Light, in everything we do and everywhere we go; even in the physical and material, the dark, tragedy or challenge, and return the sparks to Him.  We must draw Hashem into the picture of the churning sea of our world, “bring heaven down to earth,” and transform the world into a Garden for G-d.

The role of the Shamash in lighting the Chanukiyah, is that it kindles the other candles.  How often it is forgotten to be mentioned, while everyone relays the story of the famous 8…  But is it demeaning to be a servant?

Hashem surveyed all the nations of the world, like many colorful candles, each bearing potential to be messengers of light.  But which would be His faithful servant?  “Neir Hashem Nishmas Adam – Man’s soul is G-d’s candle…” {Mishlei 20:27}  Finally, Hashem’s eyes, so to speak, rested upon us.  He said “I choose YOU.”

It is said that we, the Jewish People, are to be “a light among the nations.”  We must be a fitting example for others at all times, and in everything we do, and among any crowds, we have the opportunity to make a Kiddush Hashem (Sanctification of G-d’s Name).  We are selected by, and diligently perform the work of our Master, our Creator, and our Lighter.  Once we’ve been ignited, fused with a fiery soul, and are guided with a profound purpose, it is in our hands to kindle the souls of others.  We are LAMPLIGHTERS.

Traditionally, the Chanukiyah is designed with the Shamash elevated above all the rest of the flames.  When you bend before Hashem’s will you are, paradoxically, free, unlimited, and unique from the rest.  When you serve Hashem, taking all you have – your gifts, energies, inner light and very being – and offer it all up in your Avoda to Him, you can truly reach no higher.


May we all embrace and make pnimiyut (integrate) the light, strength and miracles of Chanukah, to last all year round.  Freilechen Chanukah, love and blessing to all, as we conclude the Festival of Lights.


The Messenger Bird