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Chanukah: a time of dark, light and being a shames

12/27/2022 09:28:05 AM

Dec27

Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

Chanukah comes during the darkest time of year. It is the season of deeper darkness where we honor the dark and the light. We have the opportunity to appreciate the relationship between darkness and light and their interdependence. If you think about it, we are created in the darkness (the womb) and are born into the light. Both the day and the night are beautiful. Most references in the dominant narrative are that dark is bad and light is good. Let this be a Chanukah where we appreciate both.  I love sitting in the dark with the Chanukah lights and watching them go down, slowly, into the darkness, sharing their secrets with us.

In fact, on Chanukah, we aren’t supposed to use the light of the candles for any purpose like to see or read! (Except the light of the shames, the helper candle.) This is a strange custom. Do we cook food and then say that it is forbidden to eat the food? Do we sew clothes and then say that it is forbidden to wear the clothes?

What's the point? Why light a candle if we can't use its light? Because lighting Chanukah candles is not ONLY about the light - it's about the act of lighting. The Talmud compares a candle to a person's soul. Chanukah is a reminder we are here to "ignite, or light up a soul." We have the potential to become the shames for someone. How has someone ignited your soul? How have you ignited someone else’s?

We supply the spark. Not for our own benefit. Not to receive something.

Let us dedicate these last few nights of Chanukah by honoring the individuals and communities that have ignited our souls. Including those of us at Or Shalom. May we look forward to more times together when we will have the opportunity to receive each other’s sparks.


Artwork by Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

Wed, February 8 2023 17 Shevat 5783