Rabbi’s December 2017 Column

Shalom All,

There is a wonderful teaching about the lighting of the menorah at Hanukkah which suggests that what we are really doing is kindling the flame of our soul, a spark that cannot be extinguished, that will burn for eternity and not just the eight nights of the holiday.

Michael Strassfeld, in his reference book to the Jewish Holidays, reminds us that we traditionally place the menorah in our windows to be visible to those passing by, just as our inner light must shine against the darkness of evil and indifference and must kindle the spirits of our fellow humans.

The menorah is a symbol for us of the miracle that no matter how dark life may be, there remains a source of light deep inside us – the light in our souls which reflects and refracts the light from the One who is all brightness. This is why the light emanating from the menorah is holy and not to be used for mundane things. Its light is not for reading or cooking by, it’s not for counting money or even playing dreidel. It is, rather, for illuminating the soul.

In the Talmud, Rabbi Jose shares this story with his disciples, “I was long perplexed by the verse: ‘And you shall grope at noonday as the blind gropes in darkness (Deut. 28:29).’  What difference does it make to someone who is blind whether it is night or day? Then, one pitch black night, I was walking alone when I saw a blind man walking with a torch in his hands. So I asked him, ‘Why do you carry a torch when it can’t help you see?’ He replied, ‘As long as the torch is in my hand, others can see me.'”

Hannukah, therefore, teaches us to be visible. To let our inner light shine through, so that through us, others can also find light.

I wish you a wonderful holiday season and joyous Hanukkah.

Chag Orim Sameach
May you have a happy “Fesitival of Lights.”

Rabbi Todd