Last week I lit candles each night for Chanukah. I was not raised with this tradition, but adopted it since moving to Alaska where light at this time of year is so special. Lighting the candles has become, if not a mitzvah, at least a personal spiritual practice.
On Saturday I shared with a small group from our meeting an illustration I received from FWCC (Friends World Committee on Consultation) in a packet preparing us for the plenary gathering in Peru. There were three parts to the illustration: the first was a figure in the darkness holding an unlit candle and apparently searching for the light; in the second one the figure is lighting his/her candle from a lit candle; and in the third the figure is carrying his/her candle off (into the world?).
The new thought that came to me was the role of the shamash in lighting the Chanukah candles and the role of the lit candle in the illustration. The shamash is the “attendant,” lighting the other candles and making sure they stay lit. Isn’t this something like the role of elders in our Quaker meetings? Not an elevated position, but one of tending, watching, paying attention to the movement of Spirit.