It is pompous, insensitive and callous to write. But perhaps it is more pompous, more insensitive, more callous not to.
Words are most inadequate. Sometimes inadequacy is all we have. This is one of those times.
I am a twenty-four year old man and I am sad. I have grown up and live with the philosophy and belief that the only way to really study yourself is by teaching others, the only way to truly shine yourself is by helping others shine, the only way to reach in to the depths of your own being is by reaching out – and in – to the depths of another. I believe this is the Jewish way, the Torah way, the Divine way: to be a flickering candle, a light unto nations, a lighthouse and a lamplighter in a sea of darkness.
I have always been taught that those who are candles and light other candles will always outshine those who blow them out. This is what I believe; this is who I am and I am broken.
Last week the brightest candles were blown out. Last week the world became a darker place. Last week a two-year-old candle was orphaned.
Sense be damned. What does it say of our world when those who brighten it are snuffed out and those who darken it flourish? What does it say of a humanity that can only ink inadequate words while tears drip heavy and lips tremble light? What does it say of a reality that can harbor evil and laugh at all that is good and pure?
I am a twenty-four year old man and I am at a loss.
I have never met those candles personally, as I’m sure most of you haven’t, but we all know them well: we know their light, the warmth they exude and the cold they banish; we know their selfless beauty and feel their unconditional love. Whether in a far-flung darkened country or a further, darker state of mind, we have come across such candles, people who dedicate their lives to peace and harmony; people who look at a person and see not the differences their faces bespeak but the unity their souls whisper; people who embrace people that differ from themselves because they see that indeed we are all alike, all candles, all lights, all divine creatures. They embrace the beauty within us all and forget our ugliness.
I have never met those candles personally and now I never shall.
There is evil in this world, people who hurt other people, people who blow out candles. The confused world in which we live, too afraid and complacent to acknowledge the reality, calls evil by different euphemisms; but this does not change reality. Evil is evil. People who snuff out life, glorify death, spill others’ blood are evil people. These are selfish people, people who perpetuate darkness and then blame it on the very light they’ve extinguished.
In life there are two choices: either be a candle or blow one out. Last week the world became a dark place. Last week candles were blown out.
It is a custom to light a candle. So I shall. And I shall mourn. But I shall mourn not in darkness. I shall mourn in light. I shall mourn in the only way I know how. I shall mourn with a candle. I shall mourn by illuminating. I shall mourn by lighting a candle and dispelling all darkness forever.
In life there are two choices: the right choice and the wrong choice. The right choice brings light, warmth and peace into this fragmented universe; the wrong choice brings darkness, pain and hurt. Good people are those who make the right choice, make everything around them better; bad people are those who make the wrong choice, make everything around them worse. In life we have two choices. It’s as simple and complicated as that.
In Mumbai, India, a city halfway across the world, the flickering candles that brought peace and solace to that city were blown out. The darkness of their absence is felt throughout the world. Some question G-d. But let us also challenge man. Let us be candles in the darkness. Let us illuminate everything we touch. Let our flames unite and dispel all that is black and cold.
It is the month of Kislev, the month of Chanukah – a month of miracles, a month of light, when even the tiniest of flames illuminates the darkest situation.
It is pompous, insensitive and cruel to even try to make sense of the darkness. But perhaps it is more pompous, more insensitive, more cruel to ignore the flames, the candles we must light – if not for ourselves then for the candles that were murdered; if not to make our own hearts lighter – how could we ever? – then to make the world around us lighter, to make sure not one candle, not one flame is ever, ever blown out again and that all the universe be illuminated with goodness and kindness forever.
Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at jakeyology.blogspot.com
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.