A Chanukah Message from Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal
Read community insights, advice and perspectives during Chanukah.
Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal serves Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Buckhead.
I am grateful for my incredible life-partner Brooke Rosenthal and four children: Avram Eli, Ariela, Ma’ayan, Naftali and their new puppy; JuJuBe.
This Chanukah I’m thinking of the candles. Not just any candles, but the little often blue ubiquitous box stuffed with 44 of them. In truth we are only lighting 36 candles throughout the holiday of Chanukah. Eight candles are designated as the Shamesh, or helper candle, to light the others. As we make our way through the holiday adding a candle each day, we end up lighting 36 total. That isn’t just math, it’s meaningful math. There is a group of people called the Lamed Vavniks. First mentioned in the Talmud (Talmud Sanhedrin 97b) and then amplified by the mystic tradition, the Lamed Vavniks are 36 hidden righteous people who, in each generation, are prepared to greet the Shekhina (Dwelling presence of God). Their name comes from the numerical value of the two letters: lamed (30) and vav (6). Hence, Lamed Vavniks. We don’t know who make up the 36 hidden righteous souls and they don’t even know that they are part of the 36, but their existence and the blessings they bring keeps the world upright. Lighting 36 candles throughout the holiday of Chanukah, standing before the Chanukiah and meditating on their illumination affords me the opportunity to think more broadly about my own gratitude. So often I find myself thankful for things I see, feel, experience and for those I interact with regularity. This year, let our lighting open our eyes and uncover the hidden people for which we must be grateful.
Rabbi Laurence is the senior rabbi of Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Atlanta and immediate past president of the Atlanta Rabbinical Association.