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OLD LIGHT vs NEW LIGHTS - A Philisophical debate in the Mishnah
Mishnah Berakhot, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Five

Introduction
In this Mishnah Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel debate various details of the Havdalah ceremony.
I will focus on just one of these disputes.

Mishnah:
...
"Bet Shammai says [the blessing over the havdalah candle concludes with the words],
‘Who created the light of the fire.’
Bet Hillel says:
‘Who creates the lights of the fire.’"

What is the point of their debate? It seems like hair-splitting at a first reading...until you realise that light is often used as a metaphor for “Torah” or "truth".

This, it seems to me, is actually a coded philosophical debate about the nature of truth (or in their terms perhaps they would have said the nature of "Torah").

Bet Shammai say that there is one single absolute Truth, created at the beginning of the world, never-changing. “Created” is therefore past tense and “light” is in the singular.
Bet Hillel say that there are multiple truths and they are constantly being created all the time. “Creates” is present tense and “lights” is in the plural.


As is the halacha, we follow Bet Hillel in this world, though in the world to come Bet Shammai's opinion may prevail.
The Havdalah candle with its multiple wicks burning as one flame symbolises these multiple truths that merge into one single ever-changing flame of Torah.

It is the Jewish equivalent of the story of the blind villagers and the elephant http://www.jainworld.com/literature/story25.htm.

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