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Home » Chanukah

Chanukah: Lights of Joy and Inspiration

Submitted by on December 13, 2009 – 4:26 amNo Comment | 1,791 views

The Night And The Light

As dusk gathers and darkness approaches, night falls and gloom encroaches,
we seek inspiration anew. What is a person to do?

The answer is simple at this time of year, light a candle and banish the fear.

Chanukah is a festival of lights; a time when flames are kindled in windows and doorways soon after the sun sets. But as we touch match to wick and marry candle to flame we must reflect on the deeper meaning, the inner message; the tale the candles tell.

For eight straight days we kindle a flame; every day, one more than before. The candles are lit only at night; in the daytime there is no need for light. We use a Shamash, serving candle, to kindle the lights; we don’t kindle lights with a match. Before we light them we chant a blessing; a blessing with profound meaning. Pretty as the candles are, elegant as they appear, we may not use them for personal gain. We may not read in their light or be warmed by their heat; we may only gaze upon them and be inspired.

These are the laws of the Chaunkah lights, but what are their tales? What secret message do these rituals transmit? The answer is there just beneath the surface. A little creative coaxing will reveal it, which brings us to the crux of our Chanukah meditation.

Meditate And Kindle

As we kindle the Chaunkah lights we must pause to take in the gathering darkness; after all it is this darkness that our lights are meant to illuminate. What is this darkness? How does the night speak to our soul? How does it represent our darkest fears?

Whether life has endowed you with failure or success one thing is certain; the cheer of life is never constant. There are bright times and dark ones. Days when anything is possible; when you feel light and unencumbered, your spirit soaring aloft.  And days when you feel completely inept; your spirit sags and you lose faith in yourself.

I am not talking about radical, bipolar like, mood swings but normal fluctuation in attitude and temperament. The sun does not always shine; on some days clouds gather and on others they are dispersed.

As you reflect on the encroaching darkness, consider your upcoming task; how are you meant to respond? You are about to kindle a light. The light will not be kindled by G-d, but by you. That’s right. You were happy yesterday and you are gloomy today, but you are the same person. You are unhappy today? You have encountered a failure or two? That’s ok. Take it in stride. You are the same person who succeeded yesterday and you can do it again. It is up to you so kindle that light.

Somewhere within you there is an unlimited source of light. Reach deep and find it; awaken your spirit and uplift your soul.lights of joy - innerstream As you marry flame to wick you banish the dark and illuminate the night. Meditate on connecting your mind to your soul. There is a flame within you. Bring it forth and sweep aside the cobwebs of gloom. Enough with the dark; it is time for light. It is time for lights of joy. (1)

Climb To The Top

Tonight’s flame illuminated tonight’s darkness, but tomorrow the darkness will return. Tonight’s flame cannot banish tomorrow’s darkness; tomorrow will require a flame all its own. But tomorrow, the flame will grow; if today, one light then tomorrow two, if tomorrow two lights then the next day, three. Every night the darkness will increase and as it does so will your flame.

This pattern will continue till you reach the number eight for eight is the point of transcendence. Seven is the order of nature; the number of days in which G-d created the world. Eight is the number that connects you to G-d; to the spark of G-d within yourself. Once you find the path to your soul you have found the path to liberty; you will then reach inward at will and illuminate the darkness of life. (2)

Serve The Right Master

However, there is a caveat. The candles are lit with the Shamash; the candle that serves the others. As you touch the Shamash to the candles reflect on the fact that the illuminator is merely a servant; it serves the candles, not itself. In a similar sense, our restored sense of well being must be an exercise in humility rather the arrogance. It must be executed in the service of G-d. Never of self.

This is why the flames may never be used for personal gain. It reminds us that our uplifting thoughts must serve their purpose not our egos. These thoughts cannot serve two masters at once. If they serve to inflate our ego, they fail to uplift our soul. An inflated ego allows us to feel good for the moment, but inflated egos must by nature deflate. A well placed insult or barb will shatter our self contentment and when that happens who will lift us back up?

This then is the inner meaning of the blessing… “For He has sanctified us and commanded us to kindle the light of Chanukah.” Clearly the Chanukah lights illuminate the night and our nights are in need of illumination. But as you chant the blessing think of G-d, the source of all light. Indeed we are the ones who light up the night, but G-d is our reason for doing so. The object of all life is to serve Him.

This is the message of the Chanukah. This is the tale the candles tell.

This Chanukah I hope you pause for a moment or two and listen to the dancing flames. Their message is uplifting and joyous. It is also reflective and real.

Footnotes

  1. This is the theme of the Torah portion we often
    read on Chanukah. Joseph experienced good days and bad. He went from
    being his father’s favorite child to a worthless slave in Egypt. He was
    appointed lord of his master’s home and then thrown into the dungeon.
    From the dungeon he went on to become viceroy of Egypt. Yet Joseph
    never lost his cheer. The Torah records a conversation between Joseph
    and his fellow prisoners/ He entered their room one fine morning and
    noticed their downtrodden mood. Surprised Joseph asked, why had your
    face fallen? Joseph was in prison and well understood the privations
    and sufferings of confinement. Could he not relate to the sour mood of
    his fellow prisoners? Indeed, Joseph could not relate. For Joseph
    filled his days with cheer. When the light dimmed in his personal life
    he simply lit another candle.
  2. It goes without saying that the path to our soul
    leads through the Torah. Our emotional gloom is often a product of
    soulful yearning. We are encumbered by a sense of dissatisfaction;
    something is lacking in our lives. We assume the hole is in our social
    or professional lives, but fail to realize that it is in our spiritual
    lives. The gloom we feel is that of emptiness of spirit and this can
    only be filled with Torah. Thus the true meaning of the Chanukah lights
    relates to the light of the Torah.
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