Be the Light

CC via Wikimedia Commons

As I got ready to light the menorah for the last time this year, I could not help but think about the meaning of the shemash, or head candle, amid all the other candles. Each night a new candle is added to the menorah and the light spreads. Come the end of Chanukah, you have a wonderful bright sight in front of you lighting up the room. The candles, all lit and together in the menorah look whole and bright.

The future for the Maccabees, the future of the Jews at times during our history and even today, has not always looked bright. We have been the minority in this world for thousands of years, but we are a people, a light that will not go out. By doing mitzvot, good deeds, and practicing tikkun olam, repairing the world, we are passing on the light, the hope for a better tomorrow to our friends, family, and strangers, regardless of whether or not they are Jewish. The prophet Isaiah quotes God saying, “I will also make you a light of nations” (Isaiah 49:6), which some interpret as “a light unto the nations.” What does this refer to? Our ancestors and us have struggled to stay alive, so one of the ways we have gone about making every day count (present and future), for ourselves and others, is by working today for a better tomorrow for everyone. This desire, this passion, this need, is a spark, a flame, that has and continues to live within us every day. Our continuous existence could be considered a miracle, and while I agree with that, I do not believe that that is the only reason our people have survived all these years. Our history of perseverance, our laws and reverence for doing good in the world on an individual basis and as a community is the light that is added every day, making the world a better place. Each of us is a candle with a flame within us. Some flames may be brighter than others, but we all have the opportunity to light up the world. Whether you choose to be the shemash and spread the light is up to you.

There are also times when the Jewish people are divided, and sadly, as a result, we as a people are like a menorah on the first night of Chanukah, alone and not bringing much light into the room or world. Only when our minds, hearts, and faith are in sync will we be together, bright as can be, a light unto the nations, and making the world and our future a little bit brighter. Let’s be the light.


Miriam Roochvarg is a student at North Carolina State University.

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