Ayeka Reflections – Bringing God into Hanukah

From my friend Rabbi AriehBen David, who has created an organization called Ayeka.

Ayeka’s Mission
Ayeka is bringing God back to the conversation.
Ayeka provides an agenda-free, safe space to personally explore the question: How can I best fulfill the challenge of living in the Image of God – in my daily life, my relationships, my work and community, with the Jewish people and all of humanity.

I learned a very important lesson from my friend Stuart.

Stuart is part of a men’s Ayeka group in Atlanta. We go away on retreats once or twice a year. We hang out, barbeque, eat a lot, drink a lot of beer, and talk about how we can become our “best selves”. The last retreat was a bit unbelievable – a bunch of guys ruminating on how we can become more loving. Not exactly beating drums in the forest.

Last time when we were talking about acts that best reflect our living in the Image of God – Stuart shared that he tips parking lot attendants. He said “Look, they have a pretty boring job, locked up in a booth most of the day. When I’m paying for the parking I always tell the attendant – ‘Keep the change.’ The look of astonishment and his smile is worth a lot more than the 2 bucks it costs me.”

So a couple of weeks ago I was with my son Amichai when we exited a parking lot and I remembered Stuart’s custom. I told the parking lot guy, “Keep the change. Have a nice day.” For a moment – his eyes sparkled and his face lit up.

Connection to Hanukah?

Isn’t our custom on Hanuka a bit strange? We light a candle – and then we are prohibited from using or enjoying the light ! More than strange, it’s kind of ridiculous.

Do we cook food and then say that it is forbidden to eat the food?

Do we sew clothes and then say that it is forbidden to wear the clothes?

But this is precisely what happens on Hanukah. We light candles – and then after the blessings we add: “These candles are holy – kodesh hem – and it is forbidden for us to use their light.”

What’s the point? Why light a candle if we can’t use its light?

Because lighting Hanukah candles is not about the light – it’s about the lighting.

If the candles get blown out – we don’t have to relight them. Our mission has already been accomplished. We can’t control what ultimately will happen to the candle. And our lighting is not supposed to be self-serving. We light the candles, releasing the glow that was within them. The potential for light already existed in the candle. It just needed to be given a spark.

And that is precisely what we need to do for each other. Supply the spark. Not for our own benefit. Not to receive something.

On Hanukah, it’s about the lighting – and not about the benefit or what we may receive from the candle.

The Talmud compares a candle to a person’s soul. We’re not in control of what ultimately happens to another person’s soul.

We’re just here to “light it” and then it becomes holy – kodesh hu.


Questions for Reflection

  • When have you last seen someone “light up” someone else’s soul?
  • Who has lit yours?
  • Who can you spark this Hanukah?

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