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Finding Light

Finding Light

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"For You light my flame; G‑d illuminates my darkness."

That's a quote from King David (Psalms, 18:29), and he seems to be saying that our souls – while they are Divine – aren't always ablaze, glowing and brilliant. Sometimes we need extra ignition or accelerant to get it aflame.

That's interesting. When is my soul afire? And when does it need kindling?

When is my soul afire? And when does it need kindling?When I'm finding comfort and beauty in life's purpose, in my contribution to the world, in my committed relationships and my reason for being, then my soul is shining. My internal world has clarity; life makes sense and there is no darkness to battle.

But when my attention is distracted by life's glitter, by the beckoning flicker of pleasurable self-indulgence, then my soul isn't flaring; it's obscured and ignored.

That's Darkness.

Because darkness doesn't necessarily mean evil; it means the absence of light. Darkness equals confusion. When life's meaning seems inscrutable, when I'm running from task to task oblivious to the need for meaning, that's called darkness. I may even be having fun, and convincing myself that pleasure equals light, but my soul – my life's purpose – is obscured from my mind's eye. And that's darkness.

The soul needs to shine, to blaze forth and dispel the psycho-spiritual haze.

And this blaze is a joint effort between myself and my Creator. I must find the strength to find my internal "jug of pure oil." In kabbalistic teachings, oil symbolizes faith—faith that "You [G‑d] light my flame."

And that's one of Chanukah's messages. While we celebrate the Jews' victorious military struggle against the Syrian-Greek Hellenists, we are also celebrating their own inner struggle with themselves. Hellenism equaled materialism and pleasure; those are things that can make a more disciplined life seem boring by comparison.

Each Jew needed to make a choice: Would he struggle to find his internal lamp?Each Jew needed to make a deeply personal choice: Would he struggle to find his internal lamp, to ignite his soul? Or would he acquiesce to the "beauty" of self-indulgence, and label darkness as light?

In searching themselves, the Maccabees found their internal flames and personal victory. This led to public victory and the Miracle of the Lights.

So this Chanukah, as we recite the blessings and light the Chanukah candles, let's look at the flames and see ourselves, our soul and its light.

Let's commit to our personal Chanukah victory.

Rabbi Mendy Herson is director of the Chabad Jewish Center in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
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