Hillel and Shammai – two great powerhouses of Jewish thought and commentary – squared off on how best to light the chanukiah.
Shammai stated that all the candles should be lit on the first day, and on each successive day we should take one away until there is just one candle lit on the final day. For Shamai and his students, the chanukiah was a visual reminder of the number of days remaining in the festival.
Hillel and his students saw things differently. The candles were a simple of holiness in the world. Just as a single mitzvah can get the ball rolling, leading to more mitzvot, the candles showed that a little holiness can lead to more.
Obviously Hillel’s opinion won out (as it did in so many things. He was the clearly the popular kid in school. After all, when you go to a college campus you don’t look for the Shammai house do you?) but my family has found a place for Shammai in their heart. Because a good friend introduced us to a chanukia where starting with a lot, and diminishing down day by day was exactly the right way to do it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: The Shammai Chanukiah.
(with appreciation to the good folks at Mars Co.)
Yes, there really are 8 nights accounted for on the far-right. The top candy bar got cut off a bit.