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    A shammash in the age of electricity – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why do we need a shammash these days when we have easy access to electricity?

    A. The technical answer is that – regardless of using the shammash as a “servant” to kindle the lights – there must always be an extra light (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 673) because the Chanukah candles are there to look at and not to be used for a utilitarian purpose.

    This is the message that we clearly derive from the HaNerot Halalu paragraph – ein lanu reshut l’hishtammesh bahem.

    But when the menorah is in a place where there is electric light, surely it is by the electricity that we see and we don’t need the shammash?

    Perhaps there is also a theological consideration.

    Ideals do not come about on their own; they need a visionary to promote them and an activist to bring them to realisation… in other words, a shammash!

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