Going Up or Down? Chanukah Torah, 2022

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: מִצְוַת חֲנוּכָּה, נֵר אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ. וְהַמְהַדְּרִין, נֵר לְכׇל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד. וְהַמְהַדְּרִין מִן הַמְהַדְּרִין, בֵּית שַׁמַּאי אוֹמְרִים: יוֹם רִאשׁוֹן מַדְלִיק שְׁמֹנָה, מִכָּאן וְאֵילָךְ פּוֹחֵת וְהוֹלֵךְ. וּבֵית הִלֵּל אוֹמְרִים: יוֹם רִאשׁוֹן מַדְלִיק אַחַת, מִכָּאן וְאֵילָךְ מוֹסִיף וְהוֹלֵךְ. אָמַר עוּלָּא: פְּלִיגִי בַּהּ תְּרֵי אָמוֹרָאֵי בְּמַעְרְבָא, רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בַּר אָבִין וְרַבִּי יוֹסֵי בַּר זְבִידָא. חַד אָמַר טַעְמָא דְּבֵית שַׁמַּאי כְּנֶגֶד יָמִים הַנִּכְנָסִין, וְטַעְמָא דְּבֵית הִלֵּל כְּנֶגֶד יָמִים הַיּוֹצְאִין. וְחַד אָמַר טַעְמָא דְּבֵית שַׁמַּאי כְּנֶגֶד פָּרֵי הַחַג, וְטַעְמָא דְּבֵית הִלֵּל דְּמַעֲלִין בַּקֹּדֶשׁ וְאֵין מוֹרִידִין.

The Sages taught in a baraita: The basic mitzva of Hanukkah is each day to have a light kindled by a person, the head of the household, for himself and his household. And the mehadrin, i.e., those who are meticulous in the performance of mitzvot, kindle a light for each and every one in the household. And the mehadrin min hamehadrin, who are even more meticulous, adjust the number of lights daily. Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagree as to the nature of that adjustment. Beit Shammai say: On the first day one kindles eight lights and, from there on, gradually decreases the number of lights until, on the last day of Hanukkah, he kindles one light. And Beit Hillel say: On the first day one kindles one light, and from there on, gradually increases the number of lights until, on the last day, he kindles eight lights. Ulla said: There were two amoraim in the West, Eretz Yisrael, who disagreed with regard to this dispute, Rabbi Yosei bar Avin and Rabbi Yosei bar Zevida. One said that the reason for Beit Shammai’s opinion is that the number of lights corresponds to the incoming days, i.e., the future. On the first day, eight days remain in Hanukkah, one kindles eight lights, and on the second day seven days remain, one kindles seven, etc. The reason for Beit Hillel’s opinion is that the number of lights corresponds to the outgoing days. Each day, the number of lights corresponds to the number of the days of Hanukkah that were already observed. And one said that the reason for Beit Shammai’s opinion is that the number of lights corresponds to the bulls of the festival of Sukkot: Thirteen were sacrificed on the first day and each succeeding day one fewer was sacrificed (Numbers 29:12–31). The reason for Beit Hillel’s opinion is that the number of lights is based on the principle: One elevates to a higher level in matters of sanctity and one does not downgrade.

אֲבָל בֵּית הִלֵּל סַבְרִי. מַעֲלִין בַּקֹּדֶשׁ וְלֹא מוֹרִידִין... עַל-כֵּן אָז צְרִיכִין לְהַתְחִיל מִכָּל מַה שֶּׁיּוּכַל לְהַתְחִיל מֵאֵיזֶה נְקֻדָּה טוֹבָה וְתִקּוּן כָּל שֶׁהוּא שֶׁזֶּהוּ בְּחִינַת מַעֲלִין בַּקֹּדֶשׁ וְלֹא מוֹרִידִין. וְעַל-כֵּן בְּיוֹם-כִּפּוּר אֲפִלּוּ בְּבֵית-הַמִּקְדָּשׁ מֵחֲמַת שֶׁאָז צְרִיכִין לְכַפֵּר כָּל הָעֲוֹנוֹת שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל צְרִיכִין לְהַתְחִיל מֵאַחַת וְאַחַר כָּךְ אַחַת וְאַחַת וְכוּ' וְאַזְלֵי לְטַעֲמֵיהוּ. כִּי שַׁמַּאי קַפְּדָן וְאָכַל כָּל יָמָיו לִכְבוֹד שַׁבָּת שֶׁלִּסְבָרָתוֹ אִי אֶפְשָׁר לֶאֱכֹל כָּרָאוּי... אֲבָל הִלֵּל מִדָּה אַחֶרֶת הָיְתָה לוֹ שֶׁכָּל מַעֲשָׂיו לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם וְהָיָה אוֹמֵר בָּרוּךְ יי יוֹם יוֹם יַעֲמָס לָנוּ הָאֵל יְשׁוּעָתֵנוּ סֶלָה. כִּי עַכְשָׁו אִם נַמְתִּין עַל שְׁלֵמוּת הַתִּקּוּן כִּמְעַט אָבְדָה חַס וְשָׁלוֹם פְּלֵטַת יִשְׂרָאֵל. רַק צְרִיכִין לֵילֵךְ תָּמִיד עִם בְּחִינַת בָּרוּךְ יי יוֹם יוֹם וְכוּ'.

...but Beit Hillel's opinion is that in matters of the holy, we ascend...for reason, we must start from anywhere we are, with any positive point, no matter how small or insignificant. For this reason, on Yom Kippur [the high priest sprinkled blood eight times, but counted 'one, one and one, one and two, etc]. In temperament, Shammai was miserly, eating his entire life only for the honor of the Sabbath, in his belief that the food of the week could only be purified through the intention of the end of the week [i.e. the loftier 'goal' of Shabbat was necessary to infuse weekday living with holiness]. But Hillel was of a different nature. He lived by the maxim, 'I thank G-d each day'. If we wait for the complete redemption, for Shabbat, we might be lost. Each day is a blessing, even if we don't arrive at the 'final' goal.

הֲשִׁיבֵ֨נוּ יְהוָ֤ה ׀ אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ ונשוב [וְֽנָשׁ֔וּבָה] חַדֵּ֥שׁ יָמֵ֖ינוּ כְּקֶֽדֶם׃
Take us back, O LORD, to Yourself,
And let us come back;
Renew our days as of old!