Rebuilding Series: Look How Far You’ve Come. By Marshall Lestz
Good Morning Everybody and Happy Chanukah,
There’s a well-known disagreement in the Talmud about how we should light the menorah. We follow the opinion of the great sage Hillel, who taught that we start with one light and add another on each successive night, as opposed to the great sage Shammai, who advised that we start with 8 lights and subtract one each night.
Adding a light (ie: candle) represents the idea that in matters of holiness we want to “go up,” not down…. Spirituality and the holy work of refining oneself are all about increasing, expanding, “going up”…
So I was thinking– on the first night of Chanukah we light one flame and on the second night two flames. That’s a 100% increase. But each successive night, even though we add more flames, the PERCENTAGE of additional light decreases! For example, on the second night we double the candles– as we just said, that’s a massive 100% increase… then the next night it’s only a 50% increase, then 33%, then 25% and lower and lower and lower… The light is getting brighter as we add more candles each night, but the CHANGE IN LIGHT becomes less noticeable.
What an amazing parallel to personal growth! When we undertake a new habit or work on improving a character trait, any small success is incredibly noticeable at first. It’s relatively huge, and we’re excited about it. But as time goes by, even though we’re still building, the change isn’t as noticeable and our sense of accomplishment lessens. We don’t have the same “wow” reaction because RELATIVELY SPEAKING, our successes don’t seem as significant as they were at first. Our inspiration also wanes, and all these factors often lead to our giving up on the new behavior.
Isn’t it amazing? We can actually be growing– adding “light” to our lives– but because the light doesn’t seem to be getting brighter… it doesn’t feel like it’s making a difference– so we let the fire go out! We quit… we extinguish the light.
Perhaps a solution for how to “keep the light going” is to not compare today’s success to yesterday’s success, because it may not even be noticeable!… Like going from the 7th Chanukah candle to the 8th. Sure, we’ve grown, thank G-d, but it’s hardly distinguishable. And that can deflate us and demotivate us. If we want to evaluate our progress, we need to look at the ENTIRE picture. Look at the “whole menorah,” so to speak. Where were you on DAY ONE compared to where you are now? Now that’s some serious progress, thank G-d! Look at all that light you’ve generated! You’re not that “one candle” person anymore! You’re on fire!
G-d willing this outlook will help reignite our enthusiasm, inspiration, and gratitude to Hashem, which will inspire us to keep adding candles the rest of our lives.
Have a joyful day and Happy Chanukah everybody,
Keep on Building!