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The Art of Illuminating Jewish Souls

The Art of Illuminating Jewish Souls

The correlation between lighting Chanukah candles and lighting up Jewish souls.

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The correlation between lighting Chanukah candles
and lighting up Jewish souls.
 
Rabbi Zushe Greenberg 

Not so many years ago, in the absence of electricity, nighttime meant darkness in the villages of our ancestors.

And then, along would come a worker with a torch in his hand. He would light the lampposts, bringing a small flicker into the night. The light would create a soft, warm glow throughout the town.

As we celebrate Chanukah, we looked at the correlation between lighting a lamp and lighting a soul.

In Wirtzber, Germany, 1907, a Hasid asked Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch (the fifth rebbi of the Chabad dynasty), " Rebbe, what is a Hasid"

Literally, Hasid means disciple/follower, but the rebbe replied, "A Hasid is a lamplighter. The lamplighter walks the streets carrying a flame at the end of a stick. He goes from lamp to lamp to set them alight."

"What if the lamp is in the desert," asked the Hasid.

"Then we must pack his bags, and go and light it," said the rebbe.

"What is the lamp is at sea" the Hasid queried.

"Then one must undress, dive into the sea and go light the lamp," was the response.

‘The soul of man,’ says King Solomon in the Book of Proverbs, ‘is the candle of G‑d’. A lamplighter is one who puts aside his personal affairs and sets out to light up the souls of Jews with the light of Judaism.

But how exactly to light a Jewish soul? We know we must be careful because fire, while so important to our survival, is so harmful if mishandled.

A good way to light candles is to gently hold the flame near the wick and allow it to catch on fire. A good way to light up a Jewish soul is to hold the flame nearby and teach, not preach the beauty of Judaism and allow it to catch on.

Then, these illuminated Jewish souls naturally kindle other souls around them.

Recently, I was approached by a stranger who greeted me warmly.

" You don’t know me," she said. " But I must tell you that my family, especially my little kids, love our new Friday night customs and it’s really to your credit. I started lighting candles and buying challah. It’s amazing what a little ritual can do to transform a meal."

That sounds wonderful," I replied. "But you haven’t explained my connection."

It turned out that a friend of hers, Susan, had come to our house for Shabbat dinner. Susan enjoyed it so much she began having Friday night dinners herself, and invited her friend as a guest.

I had not known that Susan began to celebrate Shabbat this way. When she was at our home, each ritual sparked new questions and challenges.

Like Susan, we can all be lamplighters, especially now as we celebrate Chanukah, the festival of light. We light our menorahs in our homes, quietly illuminating the darkness around us. When we kindle a light for our own benefit, it benefits all who are also in the vicinity.

 

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