We Need You to Be a Shamash!

Posted on January 6, 2020 by Rabbi Arnie Gluck

Have you ever wondered why we use a shamash to light the candles on the chanukiah? We could just as easily use the same match to light all of the lights each night, so why do we need a shamash? Just think of all the candles we could save! 

We need the shamash because it is a valuable symbol that teaches us important lessons. First, it teaches us that one can influence many. There is no set limit to how many candles can be lit by a single shamash. We can have this kind of influence on the world by the way we impact the lives of others. It can be through our acts of kindness, by our example of living our values, by sharing our ideas, convictions and beliefs, or by leading others to take action. In these ways, each of us can be a shamash. 

Second, we learn that the light of the shamash is not diminished when it shares its strength with others. There is an unfortunate tendency to think that when we give, we are left with less for what we gave away. The shamash teaches us that giving makes us greater, not smaller, not lesser. It is true in so many ways, in love, in kindness, in spirit. The more we give of these things, the more we have! It is also true of tzedakah. What we give away remains as a gift of righteousness that can never be taken away, while that which we keep we will one day spend, and it will be gone forever. 

Each of us can be such a light in many ways, and I hope that we will be inspired to do so. But now we need each of you to be a shamash for our Reform Jewish community here, in Israel, and throughout the world. Beginning on January 21, voting will commence to determine the size of the delegations to the World Zionist Congress elections, and a lot is riding on the outcome. 

Why is voting so crucial? We American Jews don’t get to vote in the upcoming Israeli elections in March, but because we are part of the Jewish people, we can vote in the Parliament of the Jewish People – the World Zionist Congress, which will be held in October 2020 in Jerusalem. I am on the “Vote Reform: ARZA” slate of delegates for election and hope to be able to represent you personally at the Congress, if you vote!

A large representation for Reform Judaism at the World Zionist Congress will give us the power to promote religious freedom, pluralism and equality for all Jews, including personal status issues such as marriage, divorce, and conversion; equal access to holy places like the Kotel; and more. It will result in increased funding for Reform Judaism in Israel and the Diaspora. And it will also increase our representation in the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which allocates money for land purchases throughout Israel. Increasing the strength of our voice in these Jewish national institutions will enable us to make them more reflective of our Reform Jewish values. 

Four years ago, the Reform movement won 39 percent of the American Jewish vote, which translated into real power, influence, and $4 million a year in funding for our institutions in Israel and around the world.  Our goal this time is to double that amount, and we can do it if…if you vote and if you will be a shamash!

How can you light the way for Reform Judaism in the Zionist elections? By getting eight or more other Jewish people to vote for the Vote Reform: ARZA slate of delegates. Voting takes place online and takes just minutes to do, with a fee of $7.50 to cover administrative costs. One does not need to be a member of this or any other Reform congregation to vote. One needs only to be Jewish (by self-identification) and over the age of 18 by June 30. All of us have Jewish friends and family members who may or may not be members, and who may or may not be aware of the difference they can make by voting “Vote Reform: ARZA” in this election. But you can be their shamash by asking and encouraging them to vote. 

More information about the elections is available in this issue of the Shofar, and more details about the mechanics of voting will be forthcoming.  What matters now is your commitment to vote, and to be a shamash to light the way for others to vote, too.



Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck

This article was originally published in the January-February 2020 issue of the Shofar. An archive of Shofar issues can be found here.