Light Your Fire

December 17, 2014 by Rabbi Laibl Wolf
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Light captures the imagination…writes Rabbi Laibl Wolf.

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

At a literal level it provides the ambience for the extraordinary sense of sight. At a metaphoric level it communicates shades of meaning otherwise impossible to communicate. To a ‘down’ personality we say ‘lighten up’. To the curiosity-seeking mind it allows one to ‘see the light’. To the romanticist it shows how to ‘light your fire’. To the highly motivated, a challenge is as ‘light as a feather’. A marketing success is one that ‘sets the world alight’. To the conscientious dieter the soft drink must be ‘soda lite’. And in the red corner, the ‘light weight’ champion of the world, …

So when the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, obm, urged the practice of the ‘festival of lights’, Hanukka, he set an agenda far beyond the continuance of an important Jewish law and custom. He wanted to set the world alight – alight with uplift, joy, insight, wisdom, ease of spirit, and profound vision.

After all, how can the placement of a small candle in the doorway of one’s home transform the world? Physically the lumens of one or two or even eight candles are negligible. But the power of the metaphor is nevertheless immense projecting geometrically from each small candle in the same way that a small pebble dropped into the pond projects increasingly larger wave fronts that reach the most distant shores.

When you see candlelight in the doorway or window of a home it informs the world that there is an occupant – someone who lives within. No just who lives there but since a candle has historically conveyed a symbol of meaningfulness, it tells us that the occupant cares about something significant. A truly caring person is inspirational. Caring is a natural spiritual attribute called Hessed in the Kabbalistic terminology. Caring is the strongest human expression of life’s meaning and purpose. You love your children and therefore care about them. You love your husband or wife and therefore care about them. You value your friends and employees and therefore care about them. You care for the widow, the sick, the stranger and the poor. Your inner candle, your soul, shines into the world with an amazingly disproportionate effect.

Jewish people are at this moment celebrating the eight-day festival of Hannuka. Its history revolves around a small cruse of oil that miraculously stayed lit in the temple of old after a fierce military repulse of the overwhelming Greek armies besieging Jerusalem. A tiny band of Jewish militia, led by Judah the Maccabee waged guerrilla warfare to defeat far superior armies and liberate Jerusalem – again – a recurring theme in world history, most recently re-enacted in the 1967 war (‘The Six Day War’) when the Temple mount retaining wall, the ‘Western Wall’, was liberated by the Israeli army.

At a more profound level, Hanukka celebrates the light of vision and wisdom. It informs us that a little light can dispel much darkness – be that the darkness of evil, of illiteracy, of sickness, of poverty, or of confusion. In a leaderless world, be the light – be the leader. In a pragmatic world dictated by principles of economics, be a leader of truth, values and beliefs. In a world where bloodthirsty ambitions are practiced by vicious warlords, be a leader for justice, principles and integrity.

When you light your Hannuka candles, you are making an important statement about life and the world: You care.

Light your fire.

Rabbi Laibl Wolf, is the Dean of Spiritgrow – The Josef Kryss Center, Australia 

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