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The Secret of the Light -  Chanukah, 5781

12/16/2020 11:42:42 AM


ancient and modern menorahs

This essay is my journey in Torah, seeking understanding, wisdom and strength to endure during these terrible months. I dedicate it to those who have lost loved ones, to the holy souls who have passed in our congregational family and to those who risk their lives every day to care for us and to protect us. In their light, we see light.

There is a strange question hidden in the Chanukah Miracle.

If that golden Menorah burned for eight nights (notice that whenever we tell the story, we focus on the nights), and if the oil ran out after the first night, then what did the fire feed on?

There was no fuel for the flame, no oil, no wax, gornisht- nothing.

What was there? One thing: Darkness.

The only thing that the flame could have fed on was darkness. Instead of the darkness swallowing up the light, the light consumed the darkness.

In all of the Torah, in all of Kabbalah, Prophets, Midrash -- in all of Jewish literature and Jewish memory -- there is only one other time when light consumed darkness.

Genesis 1:1-3 (my translation)
In the beginning of G-d’s creation of the heavens and the earth, the world was howling chaos featuring darkness over the infinite abyss, with the Divine Spirit blowing over the face of the waters. And G-d said, “let there be light -- and there was light -- and G-d saw that the light was good....

The mysterious light of Creation, the light that radiated without sun, moon or stars, the light that consumed darkness and pushed it back, is the same light that was kindled in the Menorah. There can be no other conclusion.

End of text study.

So what does it mean?

How should I know? What do you think it means? That’s what matters. Unless...

The Kabbalah tries to delve back into the time beyond time, space beyond space, back to the mystery that preceded the Creation. What do you call time before there was such a thing as time, or a place beyond what we think of as space? Our language fails because our minds cannot gain a toehold.

What was before Creation, before time, before space? What was there in the infinite of G-d’s endlessness? Who can know?

But one thing must be. Before there was a Creation there was, there had to be, one thing. Before there was a Creation there had to be the Will to Create.

And that Will to Be, that Will to Create, took the undifferentiated darkness that somehow birthed it and somehow ignited it into its opposite: from chaos and nothingness and darkness to order, existence and light.

So, the light of Genesis is the Will to Create, the Will to Be. And that will comes out of nothingness.

Was that Will separate from G-d? G-d is One: G-d has no parts or divisions. But that Will, that Light, somehow arose within the divine nothingness and became a something. And that something reflected and refracted and became the universe.

And that darkness-consuming light of the Menorah, G-d’s light, G-d’s Will, became the universe.

And the light of the Menorah, the light that should have never existed, lit by holy rebels who should never have been able to defeat the invincible army of Alexander the Great, in the mountain city of Jerusalem, atop Mount Zion, built on no trade route, no port, of no strategic importance, but still the Center of the World, inspired by a hidden G-d whose Presence brooks no denial, is the same light that we light during these Days of Chanukah.

The Jewish people persists, resists, exists because something within, the tiny spark of light in the Jewish soul, wills it. And that soul light, for eight nights of the darkest days of the year, takes form in little lights of the Menorah.

And that is the secret of the light. Ultimately, you don’t light it with your hand, with a match. You light it with your will. And thank G-d, that ancient, unconquerable will, ignited in the aftermath of a deadly struggle for our existence as a people, continues to sustain us. But only for as long as we have the will to sustain the light, channel the light, be the light.

May you and yours experience a radiant Chag HaUrim, Festival of Lights.

Wed, July 28 2021 19 Av 5781