As I packed up my Menorah, Chanukah lights, Dreidels and chachkes, I had a bit of sadness overcome me. Even though most nights were spent lighting the Menorah on my own, I had a deep connection to the kindling this year… It meant something more than in years’ past… and I am going to miss it.
But I also happened upon an article by Karen Wolfers Rapaport on Aish.com that both inspired me and got me thinking about how we have this golden opportunity to kindle lights… twice every week, if not more.
The article is a wonderful reminder of the power of tradition and the deep meaning behind so many customs we often take for granted.
Especially with Chanukah, it is easy to see the “big” miracles… that of the oil lasting eight nights instead of one… or the victory of the Maccabees… but it is the smaller, daily miracles which should be given as much weight. They might not sell stories online or be a lead in for the nightly news… but we have the opportunity, and dare I say, the duty to celebrate life and living as often as we can.
Remember, it was still a miracle finding enough pure oil for one night, especially given the devastation and desecration that took place. Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld taught me that this is part of why we celebrate eight nights, instead of just seven. After all, the miracle was technically for the seven “extra” nights. But celebrating every day occurrences and NOT taking things for granted is a vital and imperative way to live and find true happiness.
I will start the way she did… which of course is a great place for any Jew to start…
“And God saw the light, that it was good” (Genesis, 1:4)
I have discussed this many times here. It is a central source of Judaism and being Jewish… and it is a building block for true spirituality. And it’s power is both literal and metaphorical.
Light is most powerful in the darkest moments.
Light guides the way.
A candle… one candle… can light an entire Menorah without having its own flame diminish. Yes, the wax may melt a little faster on the Shamesh or Shamash… or Shammus… (meaning “helper or servant”), but it’s flame gives and gives without dwindling.
This is a powerful analogy on how to live our lives… Be a light, be a beacon and always shine, especially for others.
After all, we are supposed to be a “light unto the nations.”
This comes from Isaiah, Chapter 42: “I am the Lord; I called you with righteousness and I will strengthen your hand; and I formed you, and I made you for a people’s covenant, for a light to nations.”
“To open blind eyes, to bring prisoners out of a dungeon, those who sit in darkness out of a prison.”
Light… enlightenment has this very power… to free our souls from a literal and metaphorical prison.
Karen writes that “The glow that radiates from each of these candles represents a different manifestation of light in our lives.”
She says of the Shabbat candles, that they “represent Judaism’s inner light. This is the light that represents the sanctity of marriage, family, and the blessedness we try to strive for within our home.”
“The Hanukkah Candles used to be lit outside the front door. This shows that they are primarily intended to illuminate the public domain. It was only the fear of persecution that took the Hanukkah candles inside. As those darker periods of history have transitioned into more stable times for the Jewish people, once again the Hanukkah candles can now be moved and lit outside.
The Hanukkah candles remind us of how we are meant to radiate our light outward to the world, towards humanity.”
“The Havdalah candle… is reflective of what Havdalah represents – the separation of Shabbat from the rest of the week. It reminds us of the blending between the “private” light of Shabbat and the “public” light of Hanukkah. It is the union between the inner light, generated when we are with those we are most devoted and intimate with, married to the outer light, generated during the week when we go out of our inner cocoon and bring the light of faith and hope to our world.”
It’s funny, I have had my eye on a beautiful Havdalah set… but because I do not often light Havdalah candles, I have held off. But this notion, this idea she sets forth is actually setting my soul aflame.Chanukah comes but once a year, and yet on a weekly basis, we have the chance to gather in our most intimate family and friends and share Shabbat… share some quiet down time… alone time… and share light.
Shabbat enlivens all of our senses… it opens us up to infinite possibility. And while Havdalah means the work week and normalcy is back, it also invigorates and inspires the senses and soul… We drink wine, smell the Besamim and light the multi-wick candle. We end our week and start it again with light.
There is a reason that candles and lights hold such a vital and elevated position in Judaism. Each and every week we can remind ourselves of what we want to do and dream… how we want to give back and inspire… how we can ignite movement and energy… and how brightly we want to shine in this world.
Each and every one of us is a candle and each and every one of us can light the way… even in total darkness… and even just one of us at a time.