Spreading Light

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There is a debate as to how one is to light the Chanukah menorah. Beis Shammai says every day one should light one less, beginning with 8 candles and working down to 1 candle. Beis Hillel says every day one should add one more candle, beginning with 1 and working up to 8.

Perhaps the root of this debate lies in the question of what is most important, sur merah (ridding the evil) or aseh tov (increasing good). Beis Shammai says the most important focus needs to be eliminating the bad until only the pure, refined good is left. Beis Hillel, in contrast, says to focus on increasing  good each day and the bad will disappear on its own. That’s why we light the Chanukah menorah at night and facing the outside. When you light a candle, you automatically chase away darkness.

The halacha is like Beis Hillel and we must always focus on the aseh tov, increasing the good in the world, not only on Chanukah, but all the time.

Perhaps, here lies the root of the different way Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel handle the man who wanted to learn the whole Torah on one foot. Beis Shammai was focused on getting rid of the bad and immediately sent him away; he had no time or patience to deal will ridiculous (bad) situations,while Beis Hillel focused on the positive and brought him closer.


Rabbi Chaim Fogelman is a member of the OK Kosher Vaad HaKashrus.