Hanukkah ends at sunset, but unlike the endings of Shabbat and festivals–when Havdalah marks the separation between the holy and the mundane–there’s no ritual to mark this ending, and I’d like to propose one.
A chanukiah that uses candles has room for nine candles, with one being the shamash–“shammes” where I grew up–which is used to light the others.
This morning at an interfaith gathering, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik noted that when a lit candle is used to light other candles, that first candle’s flame doesn’t diminish; rather each flame becomes whole unto itself. When we kindle lights, we bring that light not only into our own physical spaces, but into our hearts and souls as well. It’s then our task to take that light, that Divine spark, and send it out into the world.
The traditional Havdalah blessing invokes the One who separates “the holy from the mundane,” “Shabbat or the Festival from the regular days,” and “the light from the darkness.” The spices that we smell during the Havdalah ceremony acknowledge a desire to linger just a little longer in the sweetness of the day before returning to the world.
Lighting the ninth candle can do that for the end of Hanukkah. It also acknowledges the role of the shammash, the “helper” candle, without which we wouldn’t be able to kindle the rest of the lights.
This evening, I’ll be lighting all nine lights with the following blessing:
Modim anachnu lach–We give thanks to You
N’vareich et Ruach ha-Olam–We bless the Eternal Spirit
Ha Meiyvi otanu mei-or la or, v’notein lanu koach l’havi et ha-or la-olam kulo
Who brings us from light to light, gives us strength to bring that light to the entire world.
May our light continue to shine out into the world during Hanukkah and all year.