Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Feasting on Light

Two thousand years ago in Jerusalem, there lived two scholars whose rivalry still reverberates. The patient, liberal, humanitarian Hillel is fondly remembered, while the strict, misanthropic, even racist, Shammai is reviled.

In one famous anecdote, a Roman soldier came to Shammai asking him to teach him the Torah (or the essence of it, assuming the soldier was an Aristotelean) while he stood on one foot. Shammai dismissed him as a fool, so the man went to Hillel with the same challenge. Hillel answered by coining the Golden Rule: "What is hateful to yourself, do not do to others. That is the entire Torah; all the rest is commentary. Now, go forth and learn."

Shammai was Douglas to Hillel's Lincoln, Berger to his Perry Mason, Draco Malfoy to his Harry Potter.

In another famous exchange, Shammai taught that all eight lights of the Hanukkah menorah should be kindled on the first night and then diminished, one by one, each night thereafter. Hillel taught the reverse: start with one and then add. Hillel reasoned that it is our mission to bring light to the world, enhance it, and heal the world, rather than to witness its extinction.

Happy Hanukkah.

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell. Click on the picture for a closer look.


DUTA said...

That's beautiful post.

Rabbi Hillel's golden rule ( what is hateful to you do not do to your fellow) has become the theme common to all nations and religions as depicted in the attached painting.

The light of the candles of Hanukkah (eight candles lit in ascending order as Rabbi Hillel advocated) is a spiritual light - a light of miracles, faith, hope. We are demanded only to look at it, not use it for reading or some other task.

Happy Hanukkah - with joy and singing filling the air, and "latkes"(potato pancakes) and donuts filling the bellies!!

Paula Slade said...

I'm a Hillel fan! ;D Hugs and Happy Hanukkah my friend!

Nelson Guirado said...

A beautiful, God-endorsed summation of the natural law.