By Marsha Smagley
A ba’alas teshuva of only the last ten years, I have difficulty letting go of the holidays, especially Chanukah.
It is the last night of Chanukah and as I watch the glowing lights of our three menorahs, two with flames from oil and one from wax, I feel sadness at its end. I want to hold onto this night, I want to hold on to this magnificent light.
The wax candles in our menorah are slowly melting down, its flames fading into the night. The oil candles will burn longer; their light is exquisite, I want to hold onto this light. How can I still keep Hashem’s light burning bright, with the lights of Chanukah fading away? Tears fill my eyes, the very tears of the soul, imploring the gate of tears in Heaven to return the eternal light of the Shechinah.
When we gaze upon the lights of the menorah, we are basking in Hashem’s Tree of Light (Rav S.R. Hirsch describes the menorah as a “Tree of Light” in his chumash on Parshas Teruma in Shemos), the gift He gave to His beloved children of Israel, to get through the darkness of winter, and the bitter darkness of gulus. G-d’s light is hidden in the thirty six Chanukah candles. We light a total of thirty six lights during Chanukah, the same number of times the word ohr, light, is found in Torah and the same number of times neir, candle, appears in Torah. When I light the lights of Chanukah, I take comfort in being enveloped in His Divine light.
The soul is compared to a candle; trying to break free of its body of wax, yearning to touch the Heavens. As the candles’ flames seem to shuckle to and fro, I am reminded of the dance of the soul, as it strives to lead the body through life, trying to shine Hashem’s light onto this world.
A little light dispels a lot of darkness. The light of the candle slowly flickers within the recess of my mind, with the realization that we have a pintelle yid, a spark of the Divine forever burning brightly within our soul. As the light in the tent of Sarah Emeinu never went out during her life time, our pintelle yid too forever burns brightly. I take comfort in knowing that G-d’s candle is always burning within me.
“Ki neir mitzvo ve’Torah ohr,” For a commandment is a candle and the Torah is light.” (Mishlei 6:23). Each time we perform a mitzvah, we attach ourselves, like a candle’s flame to its body of wax, to His Divine will, and become an emissary of His light of Torah.
The numerical value of neir is 250, which corresponds to the 248 positive commandments and the 248 limbs of the body. The additional two needed to equal the 250 of neir, is ahavas Hashem and yiras Hashem, love of Hashem and awe of Hashem. When a Jew performs mitzvahs with the koach/strength of their entire life force, igniting the flame of the candle with ahavas Hashem and yiras Hashem, it awakens the pintelle yid within. (Sfas Emes L’Chanukah, suf reish lamed-aleph).
I take solace in knowing that when we light the lights of the menorah, the tree of light, we are reminded not only of the miracle of Chanukah, but our very calling as Jews The Jew is a wick that allows an infinite light to be manifest and that is a miracle, and through the mitzvahs, we illuminate the world with Hashem’s light of Torah, and sanctify it with His glory.
As the flames of the last candles of our menorah reach upwards, I am reminded that I too can strive to perform the mitzvahs with my entire being, and ignite the flames of the pintelle yid within, with yiras Hashem and ahavas Hashem, and keep His Tree of Light forever burning bright.
May we merit to touch the Heavens on earth, and ignite the everlasting light of redemption, speedily and with rachamim, mercy.
Marsha Smagley resides in Highland Park, Illinois, with her husband and two children. She has devoted the last ten years to studying Torah, becoming observant, guiding her family in Torah life, and recently, writing articles appearing in The Jewish Observer, Kashrus Magazine, Hamodia, Horizons, Binah Magazine, and Yated Ne’eman, which convey her heartfelt journey to Torah.
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