Light up the world: Be a Shamash

By Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg

Retweeted over the past week have been the words of Rabbi David Wolpe: “The Shamash is the candle that lights the others. Be a Shamash.”

Important words for this season as we are reminded of the power of light but more specifically the power of the individual to share and spread light.

Each of us is imbued with a spark of the Divine, something that makes us unique that we can share with others and share with this world.

Brigitte Rosenberg is Senior Rabbi at United Hebrew Congregation.

In this week’s parashah, Joseph utilizes his Divine talent of interpreting dreams. Because of it, he is released from jail and rises through the ranks of Egyptian government and society.


And yet his talent is used for good. Through his ability to interpret dreams, he recognizes that Egypt will experience great bounty and then great famine. In so doing, he can help them prepare for and deal with what is to come.  Joseph recognizes that his ability comes not from him, but from the Holy One. He realizes that G-d has given him a gift, and he utilizes it for good.  Of course, it took him being sold into slavery, time in jail and many years of reflection to recognize this but, nonetheless, he ultimately uses it for good.

What does it mean to be a Shamash? It means to open ourselves up to the possibility that each of us has the power to make good and do good in this world, no matter who we are. By sharing our light, we kindle the light of hope and possibility in this world for others.

By sharing our Divine spark, we live out the words of this week’s Haftarah, from Zechariah, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit says the Holy One.”

It doesn’t matter our might or our strength. What matters is our faith in G-d and our faith in ourselves. That faith allows us to recognize that we, one individual, can light up the world by sharing our light, our spark – one task, one person, one mitzvah at a time.

How will you share your light this Hanukkah?  How will you be a Shamash?