Music and audio © 2 Dec 2023 Alexander Massey – All Rights Reserved
אֱלהַי נְשָמָה שֶנָתַתָ בִי
נֵר יְהוָה, נִשְמַת אָדָם
כִי-אַתָה, תָאִיר נֵרִי
יְהוָה אֱלֹהַי, יַגִיהַ חָשְכִי
Ch: My God, the soul you have given me is pure. [Berachot 60b, morning prayer]
1: The soul of a person is the candle of God, that searches the deepest parts of ourselves. [Prov. 20:27]
2: My God, you light my candle; my God, you illuminate my darkness. [Ps. 18:29]
I wrote this at the start of December 2023, two months into the terrible war in Israel/Gaza. Many were expressing great sadness and distress, as was I. I know what I have to do for myself when darkness hits. I have to light a candle within myself. I have to find light, and make light, and offer light. At such times, I am convinced this is the best we can do for ourselves, and for others.
Chanukah literally means ‘dedication’; it marks a moment in history when religious freedom was under severe threat, and the Jews were able to rededicate their Temple by relighting the sanctuary candle, which then miraculously kept burning for eight days even though the oil had run out, and the people were waiting for new holy oil to be prepared. At Chanukah, we practice seeing the good that can be found in the world. We rekindle our sense of wonder, and give thanks for large and small miracles, however each of us wants to define that word. We remember the importance of diversity and religious freedom. We pray for the darkness in the world to diminish. And we rededicate ourselves to play our part in bringing light into that darkness. During Chanukah, we use a special type of candleholder called a menorah, or Chanukiah. Each night, we light a fresh ‘starter’ candle (called the ‘worker’ or ‘servant’ candle). And we use this to light all the other candles. We make blessings, enjoy the light, and let the candles finish burning. We do this for eight evenings, adding more candles each time, symbolising the light increasing, and the darkness being pushed back.
May God lighten our darkness, and may we each, in turn, be blessed to bring light where we find darkness.