When we lost power during Hurricane Sandy last month our family had an opportunity to think about things we usually take for granted—like heat, light and power. Spared the devastation that visited itself on so many, our experience was no more than an annoyance and dislocation. We walked around the house carrying our flashlights, and sat for a while each night in the living room, reading, the room dimly lit by makeshift lamps fashioned of candles which had been set in front of improvised aluminum foil reflectors. How much more light those little reflectors were able to cast onto the room!
One can find quite a bit of material in the corpus of traditional Jewish spiritual writing—and I am sure in other traditions as well—on the difference between, and the relationship between the generation and the reflection of light. Each of us, over the course of a lifetime, has many opportunities to do both.
This weekend (Saturday night to be exact) begins the Jewish Festival of Lights known as Chanukah. In a few weeks, on December 25, comes (for most Christians) Christmas, followed by Kwanzaa on December 26, and then Christmas again, this time for the Armenian Apostolic Church on January 6, and then for Ethiopians, Russians, Ukrainians, Serbians, Macedonians and Moldovans on January 7. The holidays, of course, convey different meanings; and carry, as well, different levels of emotional, religious and spiritual weight in their respective communities (Chanukah, after all—and counter to all appearances in the United States—is still a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar). But what they all do have in common, of course, is the ceremonial lighting of lights on or near the annual winter solstice, the darkest time of year, astronomically speaking.
In what ways does each of us generate light in the world? In what ways are each of us poised to reflect the light of others? Some questions to meditate on, as we celebrate our many seasons of light. May it be, for all us, bright!
Rabbi Mark Sameth is the spiritual leader of Joyful Judaism: Pleasantville Community Synagogue an inclusive, progressive synagogue – with members from twenty towns, villages and cities all across Westchester and “A Hebrew School Your Kids Can Love.” Read The New York Times article. Follow Rabbi Mark on Twitter . Weekly meditation at the synagogue every Saturday morning at 9 am is open to the public; everyone – without exception - is welcome and warmly invited. OUR MEMBERSHIP DRIVE IS ON. See “Top Ten Reasons to Join PCS” at www.ShalomPCS.com.