Word of Torah: Shabbat Chanukah; Parashat Mikeitz
Written by: Rabbi Emily E. Segal
In the Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare wrote, “How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world." At this darkest time of year, our tradition calls on us to light candles – not just symbolically, but physically. Against all the darkness, all the uncertainty, all the challenge and division and violence of the past year, we kindle candles. The ancient sage Hillel taught that we light more candles with each passing night of Chanukah because, “We only increase in holiness.” It’s like the ancient version of “We can only go up from here!” Against all the darkness, we light a flame—and then one more, and then one more. On the first night of Chanukah, just as we gathered to kick of Chanukah by lighting the big menorah in Triangle Park in Willits, the Jewish community in Pittsburgh publicly lit the menorah outside of Tree of Life synagogue where the massacre occurred just over a month ago. Tree of Life’s rabbi, Jeffrey Myers, said, “To me, it’s a simple message: The light is the message.”
No matter how deep and how vast the darkness seems, our goodness, our hopes, our little candle throws its beams. We just have to believe in its power to do so. Like the Shamash candle, this belief will not only allow us to be enlightened, but to share our light with others. On this Shabbat of Chanukah, may the flames of hope and possibility shine in our homes and in our hearts, bringing light and warmth to all of us.
From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom and Chag Urim Sameach!