My house is a mess, my head is a mess. Before, all three kids were crying; now the house's soundtrack is noticeably quieter, a strong contrast to the images that meet the eye. Dirty dishes, a sewing project on the living room floor (the only surface in the house big enough to lay out fabric to cut)--once clean, new fabric and patterns, now covered in dusty footsteps of four different sizes; on the table, together with the lunch leftovers, lie papers waiting to be filed, bills post due, lists of urgent phone calls waiting to be made.

My head is reeling The baby is on my lap as I type—she wakes up and screams for half an hour any time I try to put her down. I got some very harsh news today. My head is reeling. Someone I love is in pain. The clean laundry is on my son's bed; I'd better put it elsewhere soon or he will just lie down on top of it and it won't be so clean anymore.

You should know, none of this is my fault. I paid a babysitter to take my kids to the park for the afternoon in order to avoid the exact scene that I'm describing. Oh well, so much for that.

At the height of the excitement before the kids fell asleep, I was running around in circles, trying to make some progress on all of the projects mocking me in each direction I looked. I started opening and closing kitchen cabinets. It's not there. Maybe in the fridge. The freezer? Something that will give me the strength, endurance power and patience to deal with the disturbances in my home and in my heart. No, this is too big even for chocolate. I go into my room, close the door. It's dark. Just me and You, G‑d.

"I need help. I'm so broken-hearted over her suffering. I wish I could help, but I can't. I can't even handle the home front, never mind battles far afield. I don't want my family to suffer because I can't get it together. I'm a little embarrassed to even turn to You in this state, but You know what? You created me with my strengths and weaknesses. You made my baby a light sleeper with a super sensitive stomach. You deemed it fit for me to be told today about the abuse that went on in my student's home as she was growing up. You run the world, not me. If You delegated this little corner of the world to me, You must think I am capable, or at least capable enough. Please give me whatever it is that I need to get through this and make You proud."

Ahhh. Better than chocolate.

I feel my faith being stretched by life and experience There are some very dark places in the world. Dark, sad, lonely, frightening places. When we find ourselves in them, what do we do? A person of moderate faith has little trouble finding G‑d in the face of a newborn baby, a beautiful sunset, a spring butterfly. But what about on skid row, in the oncology unit, or the orphanage? When life dishes up a bitter brew, what do we do? When a baby is crowning, can the body widen enough to allow for new life? I feel my faith being stretched by life and experience. It feels like it might break me, but is there any option other than pushing forward?

The ideal way to light the Chanukah candles is to place them within ten handbreadths (called t'fachim) of the floor. The Talmud tells us that the Shechina, the Divine Presence, never dwelled below ten t'fachim. On Chanukah we are bringing the light of the Divine Presence where it had never been before.

Imagine living in the time of the Chanukah story, watching the Greeks grow in power and influence over the years, until the point when Torah cannot be learned in public without fear of torture and death. The Holy Temple, The House of G‑d, the place we would go to renew the purity of our souls, is now overtaken by idolaters. It's one thing for the Greeks to take over the mall, the media, the world of the body, but once the home of my soul has been invaded, where can I turn? What possibility is there to connect to the Divine? How can I serve a G‑d that has allowed His very own home to be overtaken by evil? What a dark place to live in. What bravery and faith the Macabbees had to bring light to such a place, to put their lives on the line for a G‑d that had, it seemed from their human perspective, abandoned them.

I could use some of that. A young woman asked me this week why G‑d gave her an eating disorder. Her friends are enjoying the pleasures of youth, looking forward to marriage and sweet hopeful horizons. She struggles every moment for her health and sanity. She is young. She doesn't remember ever asking for this. She prays every day for healing, for a normal life. She wants me, her teacher, to tell her why G‑d is making her suffer, to tell her why G‑d is not answering her prayers.

Let's create some light here I take a deep breath. I am holding my month-old baby in my arms. "When I gave birth it hurt. Birth is tough. If someone had come to me when I was screaming and sweating with pain and given me a technical or logical explanation for why I was suffering, I might have chopped off his head. There are no answers for someone in the midst of suffering so great that it stretches the boundaries of their survival. I can only hold your hand and tell you that I believe that there will be a baby.

"I don't know why you are suffering. I do know that G‑d hears you every time that you cry out. I believe that you can overcome this. I believe that G‑d believes that you can overcome this and that you will be much greater from the experience. You are surrounded by darkness that you cannot chase away, so let's just do our best to create some light in here. We can't see G‑d's goodness with sunshine clarity from within your pain, but our faith can be a candle that gives enough light to see where the next footstep belongs."

Chanukah comes when the days are short and cold, the days when we need light the most. There are dark places in all of our lives. A candle in the sunshine is useless. A candle in the dark is a powerful tool. I can't take away all the pain and suffering, but I can try to carry colorful candles in my heart and leave strands of the Divine light in my wake.