by Rabbi Zolly Claman
Edmonton) – Our physical world reflects our personal world in so many ways. Sometimes we can learn about ourselves by looking outwards.
I’d like to offer an example. In the morning the sun rises and in the evening the sun sets, our physical environment is sometimes filled with light and sometimes filled with darkness.
In our personal lives we see the same phenomenon. We have periods of time that is similar to day time. Things are looking good, clear and wonderful. Other times are not as peachy – parallel to night time. We all go through times that we are introduced to uncertainty, confusion, self-doubt and pessimism.
Chanukah falls during the winter solstice, as we know very well here in Edmonton, the darkest time of the year. But just as the darkness hits full capacity, the nights start getting shorter and the days longer. This teaches us that darkness is never a destination, but rather something else.
To reveal what that ‘something else’ is, I’d like to first pose a basic question about one of our beloved Chanukah rituals. One of the reasons that we light the Menorah is to commemorate the lighting of the Menorah that was done in the Bet HaMikdash. This is appropriate because we are celebrating the victory the Chashmonaim had over the big and strong Greek army which resulted in us being able to re-dedicate the Bet HaMikdash for our service of G-d.
The funny thing is, the Torah is so clear that the Menorah was kindled in the Bet HaMikdash twice per day, once in the morning and once before sunset – both during the day. So why then, when we commemorate this, does Jewish tradition have us light our Chanukah Menorah after sunset – during the night?!
The story line of Chanukah is the victory of the underdog. It is the small army beating the large army, the weak overcoming the strong. It was the intense place of darkness, uncertainty, and bleakness being taken over by the light. The lesson of this story is that all darkness is an invitation to enter into that space and kindle a flame. To kindle a flame of love, hope and optimism.
To experience this lesson, we need to kindle that flame after darkness so we can see that even a small flame could illuminate so much light.
Chanukah is a reminder that each and every one of us is an ambassador of that light and that darkness is not a destination but rather an invitation. May we all have the courage to face our own nights or the nights of our loved ones as an invitation to light a little candle there.
On behalf of Penina and our newly expanded clan, we would like to wish you a happy, beautiful and uplifting Chanukah.
Rabbi Zolly Claman is the spiritual leader of Beth Israel Synagogue, the modern Orthodox congregation in Edmonton.