The Gift of Light

When we enter a dark room and turn the lights on, the first thing we do is become aware of the things around us. What’s on the floor that we might trip on? Where is a comfortable chair in which to sit? So too, in the darkest months of the year we turn on lights. We light our holiday lights and with their light see our world in a different way. We see those who have been left to sleep on the floor – those we try our best not to trip over. We see those who have made comfortable lives for themselves. Those who have realized the “American dream.”

The “holiday season” as we like to call it, illumines our world so that those of us on the comfortable chairs have no choice but to become aware of those who have been left on the floor. So very often, we rise to the occasion – donating gifts to needy children, working in a food pantry on Christmas day or making one last donation before the tax year is out. But now, the lights have burned down. Hanukkah and Christmas are over and our world is dark again with short days and long, chilly nights. We can once again pretend not to see - those about whom we were so concerned just a few days ago. What are those children playing with today? What are those hungry people eating today? Who will have to choose between heat and food this week?

The essence of the holiday season is not to bring light into our lives just in this season but to make light a part of our world for our whole lives.

Each year, renewing that spark within us, these holidays reminds us that we are God’s partners and that each of us is created in the image of God. In her book, The Lamp of God, Freema Gottlieb writes, “On the verge of stepping into the crematoria, the victims were consoled that their inability to light (Hanukkah lights) was not a sin: Who needs oil and wicks? Every Jew is a candle. The soul of man is the Lamp of the Lord (Proverbs 27:20).

“In the soul of every Jew there is a cruse of oil sealed with the Divine Word and reserved for a time of need. When the time comes the cruse opens, shaken by the holy command, and the treasured light is kindled in every Jewish soul, and the flame, the divine flame, begins to rise.”

Let this year be one of light within our souls and throughout our world. Let the light of Hanukkah and of all of our winter festivals inspire us to light up the world with our own spiritual flame illumining someone else’s darkness with our soul. Choose one act of chesed – loving-kindness to do on a regular basis and you will have given the greatest gift of all…the gift of light!

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© 2016 by Rabbi David Paskin

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