I suppose that I should have been paying attention to the Torah readings this morning- but I was preoccupied, sharing my motherload of grief with a fellow mourner. Conjoined by loss and the isolation that it imposes, we discovered a level of kinship and drank of each other’s comfort as one drinks to slake an impossible thirst. It was chilly in the balcony- appropriately so. Clinging to the instilled warmth of my friend’s affirming witness, I listened to Rabbi H’s sermon. He spoke of the “December debacle”- referring to the woeful highjacking of both Jewish and Christian festivals by the gods of consumerism and competition. No Adam, Chanukah is not “eight days of presents” vis-a-vis Christmas. And yes, it is OK to help decorate your neighbour’s tree, sing a few carols, and generally bless your friends and relatives even if the festival does not ‘belong’ to you. After all, it is a majority culture, and the blessings of God are not restricted to the sons of Shem. Japheth also received the blessings from Noah- blessings of beauty, seeds scattered throughout Greek and Western civilization. It is possible to celebrate without losing your identity- if you have ever found it to begin with. The shamas candle exists soley for the purpose of kindling the Chanukah lights- lights which are holy, serving to remind us- and the world- of the miracle of deliverance. The shamas candle is not counted among the lights- as it does not exist for itself, but for the sake of eight witnessing flames. My friend was a shamas to me, and I to her. Loving compassion relit the smouldering wicks, restoring the witness to life. This light cannot be extinguished.