I spoke to one of my greatest teachers today. She’s about 3 feet tall, she knows all her colors, she loves to draw, and I see her each day at Schiff Preschool. She asked me a question that I’ve been asked dozens of times before, but this time I gave an answer that was totally different. She asked me, “What does a rabbi do?”
Immediately, I thought of all the people I get to teach, from our smallest to our tallest. Then, I thought about all the simchas I get to be a part of; how the smiles at baby namings, b’nai mitzvah, weddings, and more, are contagious and bring light to our souls. I thought of a many more things a rabbi gets to do. But in the end, I told my teacher that a rabbi’s job is to make friends. Just like on Chanukah when we add candles to increase the holiness of the moment, when we add friends, when we expand our community, we also bring in holiness.
Hillel’s great ruling for Chanukah was to add a candle for each night because as the holiday goes on, each night is greater in holiness. When we watch the candles on our chanukiyot grow in number (and in leftover wax), we see that we are not alone. The warmth of the candles is just like the warmth that we provide each other when we gather as a community for joy and sorrow, for prayer and acts of social justice. The weather outside these days, even in Atlanta, reminds us of the need for warmth. We could stay huddled alone with a blanket during these dark days, or we could find the warmth and love that comes with deep and abiding friendships.
The Shabbat that falls in the middle of Chanukah allows us to be like sufganiyot (or latkes, if you prefer). We soak up the rich, sweet oil of life, of our family, and of our friends that makes Shabbat, Chanukah, and this season so sweet. After you light your chanukiyot this Shabbat, do those things that my wise teacher loves so much, make more friends, bring more meaning, and create more joy this Chanukah season.