Dear Readers,

It almost felt like paradise on earth. In the dead of winter, we were spending a few glorious days surrounded by lush greenery and towering palm trees. A relative who owned a condo in Florida offered us a short getaway. It was a dream come true to escape the snow and luxuriate in the heat.

Of the thousands of people in this 55-plus community, some were snowbirds who worked in colder climates but were able to visit for a few weeks; others resided there year-round.

The premises were beautiful. We swam in one of the many pools dotting the grounds and took long walks along the scenic routes. The community center on the premises offered reading clubs, craft-making activities, game rooms, and movie nights.

What an ideal place to relax, where your only worry was whether to play tennis or paint ceramics. So, why were we meeting a disproportionate number of people who looked sad or grumpy? One woman wore a T-shirt with the words, “Living the dream!” But her face read, “Living a nightmare.”

This week’s Torah portion begins with G‑d commanding Moses about lighting the menorah.

“And you shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take pure olive oil, crushed for the light, to kindle the lamps continuously . . .Aaron and his sons shall set it up before the L‑rd from evening to morning; an everlasting statute for their generations . . . ” (Ex. 27:20-21)

The light of the candelabra is also a metaphor for the light every soul brings into our world. Every mitzvah we accomplish, every helpful act we do, every positive goal we achieve brings everlasting spiritual light into our environment.

To light the menorah, we need “crushed oil.”

The Talmud teaches: “Just as the olive yields light only when it is pounded, so are man’s greatest potentials realized only under the pressure of adversity.”

In order to bring light into our lives, we need some pressure and challenge. While none of us wants to be truly “crushed,” when we have that “impossible” deadline, when we embark on a goal that seems “unreachable,” when we push ourselves “beyond” our limits, we discover untapped reservoirs—and we discover our light.

Many of us dream of the day that we can retire and do nothing. But in reality, goals, pressures, and even some crushing responsibilities can help us discover our strength and creativity. When time hangs heavily on our shoulders, when our days revolve around finding ways to fill our moments, we feel useless, and our energy becomes focused on the negativity in our lives.

Want to generate light? Create new spiritual goals. No matter what stage of life, from “morning to night”—from our youth till even our very old age—continue aspiring to reach higher.

Rest, vacation, and relaxing in the sun may be necessary breaks. But to generate light, pressure yourself to keep contributing.

And that’s something I’ll need to keep in mind when my alarms rings next Monday morning.

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW