Last week’s Parsha Chaya Sarah, the first after the horrific events in Pittsburgh, opens with the funeral of Sarah. A funeral! While I know there are no coincidences, it still hit me hard, especially when the Yeshiva boys who were leading our Friday night Shabbat at Chabad pointed out some interesting parallels. Forgive me for not remembering his name, but the young man who led the service talked about the miracles that surrounded Sarah, which vanished for a short while after she passed, but came back with Rivka. The message was loud and clear. There may be darkness, there may be death, but the miracles and the light will return.
Ben wrote about this Parsha last week, and discussed how it connects the funeral of Sarah with the wedding of Yitzchok and Rivka. He spoke about the mitzvah of preparing the deceased for burial, which is known as Chessed Shel Emesor and is one of the highest and truest acts of kindness we can do. Sadly, this mitzvah was performed 11 times in Pittsburgh. And yet knowing a wedding and other life affirming events follow a funeral shows how we must go on. The history of Judaism echoes this over and over. We must find the light.Last night Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld led a class for the group of men who have gone on the AISH/JMI trip to Israel. It was on how we move forward after Pittsburgh. He used the story of the Maccabees to illustrate the need for light. After the Maccabees revolt, they found the Temple was desecrated. One of the first things they did was to search for oil to light the Menorah, but only a small jug remained, and it was only enough for one day. And yet miraculously it lasted for
Shlomo loves to say that the first night was not a miracle. They knew they had enough for the one day, so why celebrate eight days, instead of seven? For it was the seven days after that were the miracles. The consensus seems to be that there are miracles in everyday life, in everyday traditions, in everyday Judaism, and we must not let them pass without acknowledging them, celebrating them. We wake up with the Modeh Ani, and start our day with humility and gratitude… or at least we should. We end each day with the Bedtime Shema, doing the same, and forgiving those who injured us or did us wrong.
And so in the face of darkness, in the face of desecration, the Maccabees lit the Menorah. They got back to living, to performing mitzvot. They got back to light. The story of Chanukah makes many profound points. The Maccabees fought to survive, and therefore so must we all… in order to live, to truly live, we first have to survive. Survival is instinct. Survival is basic. What we do after that… How we live is a choice. So like the Maccabees, let us choose light.From one candle, comes many lights… That first candle does not diminish, but instead illuminates a room, a heart, a soul, a world. Out of darkness, comes light.
We should not ever perform acts of kindness to be seen, to call attention to ourselves, and yet, I believe that it is essential, especially now, to let people, to let the world see our mitzvahs… see our good deeds… see our true, unselfish acts of loving kindness. As Jews, we must let others, even other Jews, see that we are unafraid, that we are proud to be Jewish.
Now is not the time to hide. Now is the time to be the light unto the nations. Hate will not and cannot break us. Anti-Semitism will not and cannot break us. We will survive. But the key is for us to live and to love… if we want to live, truly live, we must do that with light. We must see the miracles that exist in everyday life, and celebrate them as if they were the biggest, most miraculous miracles… because… they are. Our sight… our breath… our love… Miracles one and all.
As Shlomo said last night, think of the miracle that is the human race, born from bacteria and sitting in this room. Think of the miracle that is the Jewish People. Let us each perform a mitzvah every day… one act of pure loving kindness… not to be seen, but to let others see… Let our one, singular light be the miracle that lights others.
Let us move from Pittsburgh with light. Let there be light. Let there always be light.
As Ben did last week, this post is also dedicated to the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. May their memories always be for a blessing and may their neshamas have an aliyah.