Ariel Edery
Olah since 2006

Turn the Lights Back On

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

There are times we make promises to ourselves. Sometimes the act may be to do something simple like organizing a closet for Spring cleaning. Other times the promise may be something of great value and significance. It could be anything…from dedicating oneself once a week to work in a homeless food kitchen to babysitting a grandchild once a week. Only the individual him/herself can determine its depth.

Last year, I made a promise to myself that I would run the 5K Jerusalem marathon. I had run the 10K 13 years ago, and while I exercise extensively daily, I have not been running much. And, then I realized that the deadline to sign up for the marathon was approaching…and I did not sign up. I decided that I would run on a Saturday night 10 days before the run, and assess if I could do it. I convinced my husband to join me, and off we went.

While my husband was running, I race-walked most of the run. But, I decided that a combination of walking and running would not be so horrid…at least I could say that I stuck to my convictions and did what I had set out to do a year before. I came home, signed myself up, and off I went. My husband forgot to sign up, but decided he would join me along the way, as well.

The blessed Friday arrived, and we could not find parking anywhere. So, my husband dropped me off, and told me to get walking towards the starting point, and he would meet me. And, 20 minutes later, we met at the starting point. We had to separate into lines of people registered, and unregistered, but as we jogged the first stretch, we found each other, and did a combination of running and race walking the whole way.

The crowd was huge. There were so many different runners…young, old, civilians, army soldiers, charity groups, seminary and yeshiva students, doctors, nurses, families of the fallen, and families of the hostages. We were all running together. It was such a beautiful feeling. All of us were running towards ONE goal and one purpose.

Two weeks prior to this stretch, I also signed up for the Hadran Women’s Masechet Megillah challenge. To be honest, this is more of a stretch than the run…the run I had mastered once before. But, learning a whole tractate of Talmud…I had never done that before at all. It was challenging, but invigorating as I began the journey. Every morning, I would listen to the recordings of Michelle Farber, as I walked my dog, and had my morning coffee. I was reconnecting to the sources for many Jewish laws pertaining to Megillah, women, Judaism, and culture. It was fascinating.  There was a siyum (party to celebrate the end of the learning of the tractate) online so all students could attend. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend due to a conflict, but I was there in spirit.

I must admit that I still have four more pages to finish before the Purim holiday begins. But, I am up for the challenge. Unlike the 5K, this challenge is one of intellectual measures. It is stretching my ability to contemplate and understand issues that Rabbis grappled with thousands of years ago, and they compiled the sources of our modern Jewish interpretation of laws that were pertaining to many issues regarding the Purim holiday and beyond. My own son said, “Mom, you are going to finish a tractate before I do this year!” I laughed, and thought “It is something I always wanted to do, but never found the time”.

So often we forget how our time is limited. In our youth, we believe that we can do it all, and nothing can stop us. In our adulthood, we busy ourselves with marriage, raising children, job security, and the like. And, then…suddenly we realize that we may be fumbling in the darkness. We may be forgetting the dreams that once propelled us to greatness.

I recently taught the new Billy Joel Song “Turn the Lights Back On” (produced and written by Freddy Wexler, 2023) to my ESL High School Students. We analyzed the words first similar to the way in which we analyze a poem. We thought of the poem as a metaphor that is  speaking to us today, in our current timeline of uncertainty…

I’m late, but I’m here right now
Though I used to be romantic
I forgot somehow
Time can make you blind
But I see you now
As we’re laying in the darkness
Did I wait too long
To turn the lights back on?

My students and I analyzed and asked “What is he late for?” We spoke of Billy Joel’s history of being a musical genius who decided to stop writing and performing for over 20 years. He was busy with personal endeavors, family, and just living a normal life without the hooplah of fame.  And, then, someone younger asked him if he would be interested in this song. Billy Joel decided to jump at the chance. The song can speak to all of us IN THIS MOMENT.

Each and every human being may feel that they may have missed out on something and been “late.” But, I think this song is telling each and every one of us that despite the repeated patterns in our personal or collective history, it is our turn NOW to turn our spiritual lights back on. It is time to wake up and do something for ourselves that not only can impact our own personal growth, but in doing so, can impact our ability to give to others and contribute to the world itself.

Billy Joel’s last stanza before the refrain is:

I’m here right now
Yes, I’m here right now
Looking for forgiveness
I can see as we’re laying in the darkness
Yeah, as we’re laying in the darkness
Did I wait too long
To turn the lights back on?

It is as if Billy Joel has a kaleidoscope of life looking into our personal thoughts, questions, and desires. Will he be forgiven for waiting so long to play a song? Forgiven by the fans? Will he continue to lay in the darkness?

Will we be able to take heed to the current situation of our world chaos, and move beyond the darkest hours of our lives? Can we receive the forgiveness we beseech from our God Almighty? Can He lead us to the light once again? I think it is time for us all to turn the lights back on, and do the things we never thought we could…it is time. Won’t you join me? It is a simple switch, but it will take your hands to lead the way.

About the Author
Ariel Edery is a mother (and mother-in-law) of three IDF soldiers, a trained Clinical MSW, an English and Diplomacy teacher at Amit Hallel Rehovot, and the author of Gila Makes Aliyah, Menorah/Koren Publishers.
Related Topics
Related Posts