Rabbi Mendy Uminer

D’var Torah: Rabbi Mendy Uminer (Vayigash/Chanukah)

Flames have a special place in Judaism.

Consider the Shabbat candles which we light every Friday evening.

They represent a powerful dynamic:

On Shabbat, we stand back from the grindstone, disengaging from life’s tasks to focus on life’s context, meaning and goals.

On Shabbat, we take an aerial view of our lives, rising above our splintered weekday-persona to consider our more wholesome potential.

In this sense, the Shabbat lights grant us illumination and perspective; they allow us to see where we’ve been stumbling and which paths we need to pursue.

So this coming Friday evening, we’ll try to rise above our personal stress and struggles; we’ll guide the Shabbat lights’ glow inward, searching for a part of ourself that isn’t defined by the pain, a piece of us that is whole, an internal place of faith and confidence in the future.

That’s the Shabbat experience.

But tonight as the past six nights, we’ll be lighting a different type of flame: The Chanukah Flame.

Whereas the Shabbat candles foster personal/familial balance and peace, the Chanukah candles are outwardly focused.

The Talmud describes the Chanukah candles as tools to ‘illuminate the outside’. The flames need to transform the external darkness, bringing warmth and illumination to an otherwise dark place.
Finding our personal sense of wholeness, faith and confidence, isn’t enough. Chanukah instructs us to share it with others, to illuminate the ‘night’ outside our four walls and beyond our respective driveways.

At this moment, the world is experiencing a ‘perfect storm’ of terror threats and political turmoil that is accompanied by fear and uncertainty which casts a paralyzing shadow.

It’s dark. And the future isn’t yet looking brighter.

The world needs a candle, a stabilizing beacon of light.

That candle is us. Especially the children and especially those children learning at Schechter!

If we can share hope for the future, we will have brightened lives. 

If we can lend mental clarity to distinguish between rational and irrational concerns, we will have illuminated hearts.

If we can inspire faith and trust in the Divine Parent who loves us all, we will have provided warmth to a cold spirit.
We will have touched the flame of our souls to ignite another’s wick.We will have lived the Chanukah message. Happy Chanukah!
Rabbi Mendy Uminer, Chabad Center at Chestnut Hill

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