Some of us, of a certain age, may remember these lines: “Light is the symbol of the divine”. (*) Rarely in recent years, has the symolism of the Channukah candles and the light that they give off been more meaningful and needed than now. This may be the darkest time of the year as the sky goes, but it is also a dark time of the year as far as the pandemic goes. Ten months in here in the United States and, despite promises of the vaccine, still months to go before we emerge. And now comes our festival of lights. I think we can take meaning from our “Channukiah” as we light these candles over the next eight nights. If light, in our tradition, is a symbol of all that is sacred, then let theselights continue to be a symbol of the blessing of life itself, a blessing made real and present in these times. Maybe this year we need to say the Sh’hechyanu every night and not just the first, as a reminder that we are alive and celebrate the blessing of existence.
There is a Midrash on a verse in Proverbs that speaks of the symbolism of light. It talks about the fact that one can let a candle burn out, or you can snuff it out, but a challenge is to use a candle to light others. If we have that “divine spark” within each of us (and in Jewish thought we do), then each of us has the challenge and opportunity to pass on this light of divinity to others so that this idea of the holy “will continue to burn long after the original candle has been extinguished”. This is what legacy is, we live our life in such a way that the “spark” of the sacred that is in us is passed on to the next generation. Think about this as we light the lights. We add light to the Channukah Menorah. As we live our lives, think about the symbolism of these lights as a call to each of us to set an example of sacred living for the people who will follow us. We have the opportunity to, as with the Menorah, to add light to the world.
And we have the opportunity, and maybe now the obligation, to fan that divine spark within each of us. Let these candles also be a symbol of our own soul’s need to be nourished and cared for. These are times that have challenged many of us. Doubt and anxiety and gnawing fears at times creep into our own souls. These lights can also symbolize the light of hope, that “this too shall pass” and that we have a sacred charge to care for our own self and soul so that we can emerge from these times with a greater sense of self and a renewed purpose to share the blessings of life with others. This year, let the lights of the Channukah candles be for all of us a symbol of the light of sacred possibility, the light of hope and the blessing of life and may be also have the courage to share that light with our family, our friends and our community. May our Channukah candles illumine our hearts, our souls and our world.
Have a sweet and healthy and safe holiday
Rabbi Richard F Address
(*): Union Prayer Book. p. 7