Each year I write a Hanukah story for my daughter but this year, with only two weeks to go, I had nothing. I was afraid I might disappoint her… then the spirit of Hanukah came and wrote the story for me.
In Jewish tradition, the Shamash is the candle used to light all the other candles in the menorah. The Shamash is the helping candle; it’s the 9th candle that stands behind and is taller than the others. It is the first lit and it stays glowing throughout the eight nights. Each day more candles are added and the darkness recedes as the flames grow brighter. It takes the Shamash to start the process.
Let this story be your Shamash and light your candles for Hanukah.
Darker were the days and colder the nights but Gabrielle, who had just turned eight, usually looked forward to school. But now, only two weeks into December, she had become reticent.
“I am annoyed! Every day I’m asked the same question: Do you believe in Santa? I say, No, I am Jewish, but they just keep asking. Why do they keep asking that question? Kathy, my best friend, said she doesn’t want to play with me. I don’t want to go to school.”
Ordinarily, Gabrielle was proud to be the only Jewish kid in her class. Right now it was just frustrating, especially when a friend told her, “My mom says you’re wrong, there is a Santa Claus!”
That made Gabrielle angry. “OK, Santa- if you DO exist then show yourself now!”
Suddenly, there was a puff of smoke and she saw standing before her a short man with curly hair all dressed in black. He had a long dark beard and wore a kippah.
Gabrielle rubbed her eyes. “Are you Santa?”
The little man winked. “Hope, Beauty, and light are captured in the eye of the beholder. I am Santa for some, Hanukah Harry for others and yet another character for every tradition on earth.”
Gabrielle was excited. “Can you come to school with me to show the other kids?”
The little man smiled and shook his head. “You are the Shamash, Gabrielle, a light in the darkness. You are a sweet caring Jewish girl. Go to school and share with others so that they can burn brightly too. Tell them: Yes! You believe in Santa… but for you he looks like me.”
The very next day, Gabriella did just that. She even brought a kippah to school to show the other children.
This year, the Hanukah candles seemed to burn more brightly than ever.
Written by Gene Jacobs D.O.
Edited by Cathren Housley
Lived by Gabrielle Jacobs
Inspired by Rabbi Yossi and Tzivi Kivman
Shamash – the candle used to light all the other candles in the menorah.
Kippah – the little hat Jewish men wear that reminds them of their connection to god.