ISSUES OF FAITH: Embrace light and chase away the darkness

DARKNESS AND LIGHT.

As our days get shorter and nights darker, Jews light the Chanukah candles, one more for each of the eight nights, almost as if we are bringing back the light.

In the middle of Chanukah, the moon begins to return, thus ending the darkest time of the year.

The solstice is often considered the darkest because it is the shortest day.

However, the moon can be brightly shining then so the night sky might be brilliant.

Chanukah always begins when the moon is waning closest to the solstice, and on the sixth night, when the first sliver of the new moon appears, it will not be this dark again for another year.

But there is another kind of darkness.

In December 2015, I wrote about the rise in hateful anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-semitic views spreading in our country.

Two years later, we seem to have sunk even lower into a morass of hate.

Leaders appear to have lost their moral compass, where winning at all costs has become paramount.

Those professing deep religious faith have made excuses for evil, deciding that the ends justify the means.

I’m reminded of the words of Jesus in Mark 8:36, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Will it have been worth it?

We are enjoined in Psalm 119 to always let the light of the Divine lead us, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

It seems the path for many has gone dark.

We need to bring light into this darkness.

Chanukah, the first recorded fight for religious freedom, uses candles, not only to remember the miracle of light when one day’s oil lasted eight days in the newly dedicated Temple, but also as a symbol of the importance of ushering light into a dark world.

Today it seems we could use millions of candles to overcome the darkness.

The hatred being spewed toward Jews and other minorities, the insistence on demonizing “the other,” and the willingness of people to turn away and remain silent in the face of such bigotry, is reminiscent of the horrific events leading up to the Holocaust.

So let there be light.

During this time of year the lights from many traditions shine in an effort to beat back the darkness.

It’s important to not just light our homes and businesses, but for us too to become lights in our world in overcoming the darkness of hate.

Our individual sparks can join to create flames which then burst into a fire of justice.

A Jewish prayer says “When justice burns within us like a flaming fire, when love evokes willing sacrifice from us … we demonstrate our belief in the ultimate triumph of truth and righteousness, then Your goodness enters our lives and we can begin to change the world.”

The lyrics of the beloved Chanukah song, “Light One Candle” by Peter, Paul and Mary, tell us to never allow the light of justice to be extinguished:

Light one candle for the Maccabee children

With thanks that their light didn’t die

Light one candle for the pain they endured

When their right to exist was denied

Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice

Justice and freedom demand

But light one candle for the wisdom to know

When the peacemaker’s time is at hand

Don’t let the light go out!

It’s lasted for so many years!

Don’t let the light go out!

Let it shine through our hope and our tears.

Light one candle for the strength that we need

To never become our own foe

And light one candle for those who are suffering

Pain we learned so long ago

Light one candle for all we believe in

That anger not tear us apart

And light one candle to find us together

With peace as the song in our hearts.

As we observe all the December holidays, the Solstice, Christmas, Kwanza, Chanukah, and the Buddhist deep meditative practice during Rohatsu Sesshin, it is up to each of us to keep the flame of love and justice shining throughout our world.

That flame has the power to overcome even the deepest darkness.

Kein yehi ratzon … may it be God’s will. Shalom.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Suzanne DeBey is a lay leader of the Port Angeles Jewish community.

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