The hours of daylight are few and far between this time of year. Next week will mark the winter solstice, the day with the least amount of sunlight. From there the days will start to get imperceptibly lighter, but we will have turned a corner, even if it may not feel that way for months to come.
Shortly after that, we will begin to celebrate the holiday of Chanukah. During the darkest time of the year, we are given the opportunity to add the warmth and brightness from Chanukah candles to our homes and families. The lights from our menorahs seem to be even brighter during this very dark time of year. I wonder if the light of the holiday would be as meaningful if we celebrated it in July when sunlight is abundant.
Our Chanukah menorah, or Chanukiah, has spots for nine candles. Eight are of even height and one stands higher than the others. This ninth and taller is called the shamash and literally means helper or servant. When we light our menorahs each night, adding a candle each day and more light each night, we use the shamash to light the other candles. What a wonderful job the shamash has been assigned in bringing light to the others candles. For this, it stands a little taller.
Like our candle helper, every day we each have opportunity to be the shamash by bringing light, personally and communally. There are so many ways that our Federation gives people the chance to be a light. Whether you choose to connect through philanthropy, engagement, education or advocacy, we are building a strong Jewish future in Rochester, Israel and worldwide every day through our work. Every single day people are touched by our work here and around the globe.
When we are providing hot meals and heat to seniors on dark winter days or sending children to summer camp in the heat of summer, we bring light. When a family happily receives a PJ Library book or a teen has the opportunity to explore their roots through a unique travel opportunity, we bring light. When we are advocating for Israel and exposing the dangers of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) or when we are working collaboratively with our interfaith partners to promote understanding and justice, we bring light.
When a special needs child reaches a Jewish milestone because of training his/her teacher received through Federation or when a Holocaust survivor shares a harrowing story of survival, we bring light. When new immigrants from around the world arrive in Israel safely, we bring light. And, when any Jew in need around the globe knows that they will not be abandoned because we are here to care for them, we bring light. Every day – in every way – building a brighter future – we bring light.
It is when we each play a part, through the support we pledge to the Annual Campaign and the time that we give, that our community promise creates goodness and light for all. In a single instant when we all bring a little light to someone else, almost imperceptibly our world becomes brighter, even if we do not feel it in the moment. During this dark time of year, and all year long, let’s each take the moments we can to be the shamash and help make our world brighter.