For a long time, my mother has had two photographs hanging on her dining room wall. The first is a photograph of an empty city street at night, with one small light illuminating a darkened storefront. The second is photograph of a vast frozen field of snow, with a family of four bundled up in their winter coats and huddled together in the foreground.
My mother, an amateur photographer herself, was always struck by the way the eye was drawn—when looking at each of these pictures—to the point of light amidst the darkness, to the place of warmth against the cold expanse.
I intuited early on that this had something to do with the way my mother was encouraging us, her children, to look at life—with an awareness of the dark and the cold, and with an eye always searching for places of light and warmth.
As we prepare to kindle the lights of the menorah next week, I think of those photographs on my mother’s dining room wall as a kind of visual commentary on the following teaching from the Sefat Emet on Hanukkah:
It is written: “A lamp [candle] of the Lord is the soul of man, searching out all the belly’s chambers.”(Proverbs 20:27). The Gemara notes that searching requires a candle. One candle from another. Nerot mi’ner. The Sefat Emet teaches: “Especially at this season, when lights were miraculously lit for Israel even though they did not have enough oil, there remains light even now to help us . . . find that hidden light within. Hiding takes place mainly in the dark; we need the candles’ light to seek and to find . . .”
Amidst the growing dark and cold of this season, may we look deep within and discover hidden reserves of strength and hope—and just as one candle kindles another, may we ignite each other’s spirits, searching together for the places of light and warmth within and around us all.
As always, I invite you to contact me if you or someone you know would like to learn more about our pluralistic Rabbinical School community.
With blessings of light and warmth.