Hide and Seek

As a young child, Rabbi Avraham the Malach, son of Rabbi Dovber, the Mezritcher Maggid, burst into his father’s study in tears.1

While playing hide-and-seek with his friends, he explained, he had hidden so well that nobody could find him. After some time, he reasoned that his friends’ prolonged silence meant that he had won the game and he decided to come out of his hiding spot to reveal himself and claim his reward.

As soon as he emerged, however, he noticed that they had all turned to playing other games and had given up trying to find him. He cried to his father at the thought of everyone having abandoned hope of him ever returning, thinking he had disappeared forever.

In many ways, the young boy’s pain is similar to our collective relationship with G‑d throughout history.

Shortly after their creation, Adam and Eve, the first humans, played hide-and-seek with G‑d in the Garden of Eden. They first hid in shame and embarrassment of their new self-awareness;2 shortly thereafter, it was G‑d’s turn to hide. Sadly, He has hidden so well throughout our dark and difficult years of exile that, over time, we began to forget His existence and ultimately stopped looking for Him.3

But, in truth, the connection has never been severed.

Our Loyalty

We always read the puzzling narrative of the incident between Judah and Tamar in close proximity to the seemingly unrelated holiday of Chanukah.4 The Torah describes how Tamar, twice widowed from Judah’s two sons, concealed her identity, dressed as a harlot, and had relations with her father-in-law, Judah. Before engaging in this act, she requested that he leave his ring, garment, and staff with her as collateral in lieu of payment for their brief encounter.5

Three months passed, and someone informed Judah that his daughter-in-law, Tamar, had become pregnant through harlotry. Ignorant to the fact that he was responsible for her pregnancy, Judah ordered that she be taken out and executed. Tamar then quickly revealed the security belonging to the one with whom she had relations. Judah immediately identified his belongings and took ownership for what he had done.

Tamar merited to birth twin boys, one of whom gave lineage to the future Messiah.

We are each crafted with a literal spark (or essence) of G‑d buried within us,6 and we can never lose our deep connection with our Source despite how we might behave at times.

Rabbi Avraham Dovber of Avritch teaches that the same way that Judah accused Tamar of being immodest or unfaithful, G‑d accuses us of betraying our relationship with Him.7

But when we kindle the Chanukah lights three months after experiencing a heightened and intimate closeness with Him during the High Holidays, we point to our soul and cry out in protest, “The spark of Yourself that You left within us when You went into hiding three months ago is still there! We still believe in the potential for closeness between us and that we can rekindle it!”

The Flame Within

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, took this one step further. He taught that symbolically, we are each a candle yearning to be kindled.8 The candle’s wax is analogous to the body, while its wick symbolizes the soul. Neither fuel nor wick, body or soul, serve any positive function unless joined with the other, with the common purpose of creating a flame.

In truth, each of us has a small jug of oil buried deep within, still bearing the seal of the High Priest (more specifically, the seal of G‑d) that the Syrian-Greeks (or any oppressor) can never access.9 This is why, after re-entering the Holy Temple following the war with the Syrian-Greeks, the Jews insisted on searching for oils specifically bearing the seal of the High Priest,10 and did not begin producing new oil from the onset even though it was indeed permitted to do so.11

The Courage to Kindle Our Own Light

We can debate whether the miracle of Chanukah centered on the war between the clashing Jewish and Hellenistic values (and armies)12 or whether it focused on the small jug of oil burning exceedingly longer than expected.13

But perhaps the greatest miracle in this story is that during the darkest hour of the darkest month in the Jewish calendar, we have had the courage, year after year, to set that oil alight and brighten up the world around us.

When all seems dark and lost, when our enemies – both external and internal – attack our personal Temple and desecrate our Holy of Holies, Chanukah empowers us to stand up and dispel that darkness with light.

For no matter how bleak reality may seem, darkness cannot exist alongside light – even just the tiniest of flames. Each of us, without exception, has the strength buried within to ignite that spark.

We need to be the light we want to see in this world, igniting our own souls and inspiring others to kindle theirs, as well.

How many times do we have aspirations we keep dormant because we convince ourselves that we will ultimately fail? How many times do we give up on our dreams before even beginning to work toward them? We cannot pass up opportunities because we believe others will shine brighter or burn longer. We each bring a light for which the world has been waiting for so many years.

Now is our time to shine!

Adapted from Expanding Potential: Journeying Beyond Who We Think We Are , published by Mosaica Press.