As every child knows, if you want to know which night of Chanukah it is, just count the lights in the menorah.

"But there are four flames in your menorah, Daddy," says my child, "not three."

"Four flames? Oh, the one up on top is the shamash. He doesn't count."

"Why doesn't he count?"

Why, indeed, doesn't the shamash count? It is he, after all, who kindled the other flames. It is he who stands watch over them, should one of them falter and require a fresh boost of light.

But isn't it always that way? The one who cooks and serves the meal is never really part of the party, even after he removes his apron and joins the others at the table. The tour guide isn't in any of the pictures (she took the pictures). The shadchan is the most unwanted guest at the wedding.

Only the Chanukah menorah seems to appreciate the significance of the "servant candle," placing it high, high above all the others.

"Why doesn't the shamash count, Daddy?" my child asks again.

I look at the shamash as he burns at his post, alone, forgotten, ignored. Somehow I get the feeling that he wouldn't want to be anyplace else.