I initially thought to write and publish a few ideas revolving around the upcoming Jewish holiday of Channukah a little closer to; however the abundance of light, miracles and power I have felt already this month is too full to wait.
Channukah, traditionally is known as “The Festival of Lights,” and beautifully does live up to the name. I can with gratitude and nostalgia recall walking through the stone scattered Old City of Jerusalem, captivated by the festivity that inhaled and exhaled from every home. Outside stood beautiful menorahs, each glowing with the brachot and spiritual energy that already exudes warmth into the cold alleyways of the Rova. I can’t help but relate this experience to Pesach; what I imagine walking through Egypt, seeing the famous blood painted doors; illuminating the pride and free-falling faith the enslaved Jewish nation expressed. The concept of Geulah (redemption) came to fruition through the pure act of faith and pride…just something to think about.
We know this holiday holds the pinnacle of miracles and inspiration for the soul searching wanderer begging for direction. Maybe what we don’t know, or don’t yet realize, is a concept I have been deeply thinking about and would love to discover more.
The concept and more importantly reality of our power in relation to the grandest power, as well as our intrinsic search and rescue of light in this world.
Light, in essence, is the first creation.
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹקים יְהִי־א֑וֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר
וַיַּ֧רְא אֱלֹקים אֶת־הָא֖וֹר כִּי־ט֑וֹב וַיַּבְדֵּ֣ל אֱלֹקים בֵּ֥ין הָא֖וֹר וּבֵ֥ין הַחֽשֶׁך
“And G!d said ‘Let there be light’ and there was light”
“And G!d saw the light, that it was good and G!d separated lightness from darkness”
Taken from the 3rd and 4th pesukim of Parshat Bereshit (Genesis). Here the universal relationship between light and goodness is born. Two incredible concepts I would like to focus on from these excerpts of G!d’s act of creation; the power of activity and passivity, the grandeur of speech as equal to observance.
Upon creating light, the specific language of the text provides the depth of power and opportunity revolving around speech and the action-reaction to the actualization of. The power of people, the magnitude of our influence exists so beyond our comprehension, it truly serves as the most beautiful experience. Humans can be so good, we often think they aren’t human. There is a concept, yet almost novelty, of angels coming into our lives at the exact moment of dire need. Eliyahu HaNavi, more specifically, is the common example of this “speed dial” redeemer. In seminary, my Rav recalled a miraculous story of a man dressed in all white who offered a magnanimous favor in the most divinely arranged of circumstances. Naturally, my initial thought was, “Eliyahu HaNavi!” However, in proper Rav fashion, he had already known that would have been the class’s reaction and therefore offered a concept so foreign it truly left us deeply pondering. He went to explain that yes, this man could have very well been an angelic manifestation of Eliyahu HaNavi, but—imagine if it wasn’t. What if this was a man, who G!d placed at a divine crossroad, with the bountiful power of free choice and decided to help.
Miracles began right away for me this month. on Rosh Chodesh Kislev, I got on the wrong bus. In Israel, it happens but you never want it to, especially when it is the last one…and you’ve been taken to a Yishuv…on top of a mountain…an hour away from your home. My immediate response was panic, fear and frustration. Speaking to G!d was essential and at the end of the day the only ״נהג״ – driver that could help me in life, but there was a bus driver in this very moment that I needed to be kind. I asked the bus driver, tears rolling down my face if he could bring me home. This was after his shift and completely out of his way; yet there was not a moment of hesitation or disappointment. On this hour drive me and Abdel, an Arab-Turkish man engaged in a beautiful conversation about peace in Israel, love of humankind and the balagan—craziness going on in the world at large.
Again, I found myself believing this man who sacrificed of himself to help a complete stranger to be above normal human existence. However, after thinking on it more, I realize that by doing so I am truly taking away from this man’s level of humane holiness and selflessness. Because he is just a person, his level of kindness should be recognized for the full strength of his choice.
Miracles are constantly happening, all from G!d but chosen by people. We have a choice to bring miracles into our lives, through prayer and kindness, thought and action. We have the power and blessing to bring miracles into the lives of others, to translate spirituality into their experience.
To feel and have an “angelic, spiritual experience” is wonderful and without a doubt a zechut (honor), but what an even higher honor to actualize our spiritual power in the smallest of interactions.
Moving further into the capacity of speech, the Hebrew language in itself reveals some of the deepest truths of our reality.
Every week, we have the blessing and opportunity to welcome Shabbat, and with that we sing the Hebrew text:
הִתְעוֹרְרִי הִתְעוֹרְרִי. כִּי בָא אוֹרֵךְ קוּמִי אוֹרִי. עוּרִי עוּרִי שִׁיר דַבֵּרִי. כְּבוֹד ה’ עָלַיִךְ נִגְלָה:
“Wake up, wake up,
Your light has come, rise and shine.
Awaken, awaken; sing a melody,
The glory of G‑d to be revealed upon thee”
The first statement of the 6th stanza that we sing with praise and delight to welcome ultimate rest and connection is, “Wake up!!” The text is beautifully written and holds a lot of meaning regarding Shabbat, however I’d like to bring insight by merging the modern and ancient.
In modern Hebrew, הִתְעוֹרְרִי is used dually for negative and positive connotations. The act translates to a form of enlightenment, whether that be through criticism or positive reinforcement.
The linguistic similarity of an only one letter difference between the root of this word, “to wake up” and the root word for the hebrew word for light, is truly amazing and intentional. The inherent understanding of literal and metaphoric light draws a very clear connection between the simple recognition of good and bad in relation to our internal and external relationships.
For example, if one can understand and maybe even come to respect the notion of negative and positive feedback as a form of blessing, a path of holistic healing and enlightenment, they can find themselves even closer to the grander radiance they crave.
We again look back into the “Blueprints of the world,” the Torah, specifically, Genesis for more clarity and direction. The second part of G!d’s introduction to light is as simple as it is complex. G!d created light with divine power and then observed this creation, ultimately deeming it “good.”
Torah commentators believe that this goodness G!d granted light was actually a glimpse into the entire past, present and future of brilliance. In this light G!d saw the Tzaddikim, the righteous people; G!d saw every instance of kindness, of patience and of altruism. A light like that would be blinding.
This overwhelming, at the time of creation, just blooming presence of goodness is seen by G!d, and appreciated as well.
The beauty and responsibility of G!d’s choice of words is that there has been created the balance between G!d’s creation, man’s reaction to the creation and with that, G!d’s observance and response.
I currently work in a Gan, with young, Israeli children. Everyday is a blessing, but the closer we approach Channukah, the more I realize the gift I have been given to witness. One of the guilty pleasures of an Olah, is basking in the little things that differentiate one’s life in Israel as opposed to Chul (outside of Israel.)
נס גדול היה פה–A Big Miracle Happened Here
In the gan, everyday we have been singing this song however with some dance moves. Although the motion was probably placed in order to maintain attention for the duration of 35 seconds, I’d like to believe that there is so much more meaning when the kids take their hands and place them on their head when they sing the word פה–here. So, when they sing and learn that a “big miracle happened here,” they also are taught and encouraged to believe that this big miracle also occurred, occurs and will continue to within themselves, for their entire lives.
The radiating existence of Channukah not only brings us as a Jewish people to recognize G!dliness among the world around us, but also illuminates the G!dliness of the world within us. Through our interactions, large and small, through the active role we take upon ourselves to help another—or the passive yet equally as impactful we are to recognize and appreciate the good someone else does for us.
Light and clarity are born inherently good and we as a society actualize this goodness, this G!dliness.
So with some of these thoughts in mind, I wish everyone an enlightening holiday, a time where only joy, holiness and clarity ignite their inner light. I pray that with all of these newfound flames, we open our eyes and our hearts and our minds to the brightest of goodness, the ultimate redemption.
Have a beautiful Channukah!