It’s not too late
To say goodbye
To the darkness of hate
We light eight
To keep our
Hope and vision straight
Let us add more light
So our love can burn bright
On this last Chanukah night
Give a loved one a sweet hug
And hold them close and tight
No matter how dark and scary it gets
Everything’s going to be alright
There is a classic argument among the early Rabbis of the 1st century whether to light the Chanukah candles in a descending or ascending order—from eight to one or one to eight. Each opinion has a rationale for their recommendation and the Kabbalists added that while we currently (for the last 2000 years) follow the opinion of ascending in a time of greater consciousness (Messianic times) we will light in a descending order. The principle underlying their point of view is coming to oneness and unity.
What neither candle lighting sequence addresses is how does one keep the light shining on the days following Chanukah (or Christmas or Kwanzaa)? While this is a specific question, it is also a larger question—how does one maintain awareness, a feeling, a passion, a behavior?
Another insight from Kabbalah on the Chanukah lights illuminates a path for maintenance. There is a Kabbalah tradition that the candles should “light themselves” rather than be lit. In order to have this occur materially one brings the flame close to the wick and allows the heat to ignite the wick without directly touching the flame to it (for your and especially your child’s enjoyment try the jumping candle method.
Kabbalah draws a parallel between the candle lighting itself and how we illuminate for others and for ourselves awareness. To seek enlightenment, to think that wisdom is “out there” in someone else’s experience or teaching, no matter how instructive and useful that may be, is not yet igniting the inner flame of one’s own awareness. So when we light candles the flame shines back on our inner desire to shine, it reflects back to us our commitment to be a light in the darkness. That inner igniting can last for more than the days designated for lighting up the dark nights of winter.
Do you remember the flame that was ignited by the first women marches in 2017 across the globe and here in Denver? It was inspiring to be part of 100,000 strong voices gathered to shine a light on gender issues in our city. My neighbor and friend, Sharon Hwang, who is on the leadership team of this year’s Womxn’s March (renamed Womxn) in January is dedicated to maintaining the fire, and with many others, carries the torch forward to insure that the flame of empowerment for both women and men does not flicker or die out.
As indebted as we are to firefighters for extinguishing destructive fires, we are grateful for firekeepers who maintain the flames of justice, equality and dignity. The most special quality of a firekeeper is the ability to inspire others to “light themselves” and the best way for that to happen is for the firekeeper to be internally lit—not just for a short burst of time or holiday season but for the long haul through the darkness.
As I was finishing writing this blog a student came out of class lit up by two of her classmates’ presentations followed by a negative self-reflection on what (paltry presentation) she might offer. I pointed her to her heart with the words: “Present from here.” She lit up again.