The Shamash

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Source: “The Menorah”
Author: Theodore Herzl, the Father of Political Zionism (1860-1904)

… He held the candelabrum of Hanukkah in his hands and thought: “When had the primitive structure of this candelabrum first been devised? Obviously, its form had originally been derived from that of a tree: The sturdy stem in the center; four branches to the right and four to the left, each below the other, each pair on the same level, yet all reaching the same height. A later symbolism added a ninth, shorter branch which jutted out in front and was called the Shamash or servant. With what mystery had this simple artistic form, taken from nature, and been endowed by successive generations?

The first candle was lit and the origin of the holiday was retold: the miracle of the little lamp which had burned so much longer than expected, as well as the story of the return from the Babylonian exile, of the Second Temple, of the Maccabees. Our friend told his children all he knew. It was not much but for them it was enough. When the second candle was lit, they repeated what he had told them, and although they had learned it all from him, it seemed to him quite new and beautiful. In the days that followed he could hardly wait for the evenings, which became ever brighter. Candle after candle was lit in the Menorah, and together with his children the father mused upon the little lights. There came the eighth day, on which the entire row of lights is kindled, including the faithful ninth candle, the Shamash, which otherwise serves only to light the others. A great radiance shone forth from the Menorah. The eyes of the children sparkled. For our friend, the occasion became a
parable for the enkindling of a whole nation. First one candle; it is still dark and the solitary light looks gloomy. Then it finds a companion, then another, and yet another. The darkness must retreat.
The young and the poor are the first to see the light; then the others join in, all those who love justice, truth, liberty, progress, humanity and beauty. When all the candles are ablaze everyone must stop in amazement and rejoice at what has been wrought. And no office is more blessed than that of a servant of light”.

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