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?

Ayeka Reflections – Bringing God Into My Clothes

The following article was written by my friend Aryeh Ben 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.
Ayeka Reflections
Bringing God into – My Clothes

By Aryeh Ben David

It took 100,000 people to get me dressed this morning.

My sneakers were made in China, my cotton shirt in Indonesia, my pants are from Vietnam and my Timberland vest was made in El Salvador. How many people were involved in the designing, the growing, the making, the marketing, the transportation, and the selling? At least 100,000.

I basically wear the same thing everyday. Dark pants and a blue shirt. Nine months of the year I wear the same sandals. I am pretty boring. As my kids lovingly say to me: “Abba – Imma is cool, you’re a nerd.” And they’re right.

Nevertheless, even when I am racing to get dressed in the morning, putting on my nerdy clothes, sometimes there is a moment of deep awareness.

Is God in that moment?

In Kabbalistic tradition it says that God originally dressed us in “clothes of light” in the Garden of Eden. Clothes that shed the person’s inner light on others and evoked a spiritual response.

Do my clothes do that today?
I doubt it. They probably don’t evoke much of a response at all.

I am awed by people who think about what they wear and whose clothes do convey a deeper or spiritual presence. Somehow their clothes actually reflect their inner selves. Somewhere in their wardrobe is this hidden light from the Garden of Eden.

For now, for me, finding God in my clothes is not so much about evoking responses from other people, as evoking a response from within me. Am I at least aware of what is happening at this moment? Who was involved in bringing this about? Can my clothes become a vehicle for greater appreciation, for a connection with a countless number of people who I will never see and whose names I will never know? This moment of appreciation connects me to what a diverse and interconnected world God created and how privileged I am to experience it.

100,000 people from China, Indonesia, Vietnam and El Salvador the United States and Israel helped me get dressed this morning.

Thank you. Thanks to each of you.

For Reflection:

  • What do you think about when you get dressed?
  • To what extent is your clothing expressing who you are internally, as opposed to just accentuating and decorating your external being?
  • What do you think someone looking at your wardrobe would think about you?
Ode to My Socks

Putting on socks can be one of the most mindless moments in a day. Here is something to think about while putting on your socks, especially the last paragraph.

Ode to My Socks by Pablo Neruda; Chilean Noble Prize winner for literature in 1971
(Translated by Robert Bly)

Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as if they were two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin.
Violent socks,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.

They were so handsome
for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.

Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts.
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

The moral of my ode is this:
Beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.