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Every day we have the chance to be "light a fire" and be other-oriented, to touch someone's life, to serve, to comfort, to listen, to smile. Yet how often do we overlook what is in front of us? How often do we shy away from, or explain away, the chance of expelling the darkness of our world by shining our light? How often do we say that it's too tough to change the world?

Rabbi Allouche

In April of 2017, Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of blessed memory, delivered an empowering TED Talk on “How we can face the future without fear, together?”

His remarks concluded with a transformative and practical suggestion, which encapsulates the essence of Judaism and the message of Chanukah:

“Do a search and replace operation on the text of your mind,” he asked the crowd. “And wherever you encounter the word ‘self,’ substitute the word ‘other.’ So instead of self-help, other-help; instead of self-esteem, other-esteem.”

He then reassured his listeners that, “if you do that, you will begin to feel the power of what for me is one of the most moving sentences in all of religious literature. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” We can face any future without fear so long as we know we will not face it alone.”

As opposed to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and other Jewish holidays, the upcoming festival of Chanukah is not confined just to the individual or to our nation alone. Chanukah shifts the focus from the self to the other. On Chanukah, we kindle a light, from within our home, but it must also face the outside, to shine its beams far and wide for the entire world to see.

And this is, indeed, everyone’s vocation. Yes, we must devote ourselves to our inner circles, to our family, to our friends. But it is not enough to focus inward alone. The world needs us, our love, our positive impact, and our good deeds.

The legendary Chassidic Master, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, once quipped: “When it is cold at night, there are two ways to keep yourself warm. You can wear a fur coat, or you can light a fire. Wear a fur coat, and you have warmed only yourself. Light a fire, and you have warmed yourself and everyone around you too.”

Every day we have the opportunity to “light a fire,” to be other-oriented, to touch someone’s life, to serve, to comfort, to listen, to smile. Yet how often do we overlook what is in front of us? How often do we shy away from, or explain away, the chance of expelling the darkness of our world by shining our light? How often do we say that it’s too tough to change the world?

As we approach the first night of Chanukah, this coming Sunday evening, November 28, let us heed to the call of the Chanukah candles as they question each of us: Will we kindle the candles of our soul with the flames of Torah and Mitzvot? Will we face outward, and become the light unto our surroundings that we were born to be?

Shabbat Shalom and a very Happy Chanukah!