By Rabbah Gila Caine
(AJNews) – Chanukka’s fire turns our mind back to the Menorah in the depths of the Mikdash (temple in Jerusalem). That fire was extinguished by the Romans almost two thousand years ago, but we discovered that sacred fire isn’t tied to place. It is tied to peoplehood – and we carried that sacred fire into every synagogue we built, into every Jewish family as women became priestesses of their homes and lit the Shabbat candles. And we proclaim this sacred fire every year at Chanukah as our Chanukkiyot echo the long lost Menorah. With this fire we are reminded that even though the Mikdash was physically destroyed, the fire within it was saved and spread with us across the world and over many generations.
Fire is energy and therefore power, which is why Shabbat candles are considered to bring so much strength and resilience. So too the candles we light at Chanukah.
But, the Chanukah candles contain an additional layer to the story of resilience, they add the understanding that we can rededicate that which has been destroyed. They hold within them the powerful magic of rebuilding from ruins, of containing the fires of war and hate and transforming them into flames of light and joy. And so, the essential miracle of Chanukah is the potential for transforming war into peace, sacrilege into the sacred, and pain into healing.
The question this year is, how do we go about harnessing the power of this fire and performing the miracle and moving away from sadness to celebration?
Here is a short meditation I wrote which you are welcome to use after lighting your candles during the festival nights, or at any time you feel powerless to bring about a change for good in our society.
A meditation on the Power of the Chanukah candles
Look into a flame of the Shamash (the one candle we light on all nights)
You can close your eyes or keep them open and focused on the flame
Notice your breathing
Inhale and imagine as oxygen moves into your lungs and from there around your body
Exhale and imagine as CO2 leaves your body to mingle back with the air around you
Imagine a place that is sacred for you.
Walk towards that place, enter and move into its deepest part
You will find a small table in the darkest corner of that place
On the small table you will see a clay bowl
Within the bowl you see a small, strong flame burning.
Watch the flame
Listen to the flame
Feel the heat of the flame
This is the soul of Creation
Look around and notice a Firekeeper: the person or creature who keeps this fire alive.
The Firekeeper touches the fire and hands you a flame
The flame moves into you.
You feel the flame in your body
Notice where you feel energised
The Firekeeper hands you two Hebrew words:
Zachor (remember) – remember you carry the sacred fire of creation
Shamor (guard) – use the sacred fire to protect creation
You thank the Firekeeper and move out of the space
Notice your breathing while you exhale and inhale
Open your eyes (if they are shut) and notice the Shamash candle.
Rabbah Gila Caine is the spiritual leader at Temple Beth Ora, Edmonton’s Reform Jewish congregation.