Tomorrow night, Chanukah, the holiday of lights, begins. Candles play an important role in Jewish life.
Each week Shabbos begins with the lighting of Shabbos candles.
Each holiday begins with the lighting of candles, as well.
Candles also play an important role in death and morning. The verse in Tehilim (Proverbs) compares the soul of a person to a candle. Therefore, during shiva a seven day candle burns in memory of the departed. On the departed’s yarztiet and on holidays when Yizkor is recited we light a twenty four hour candle in memory of the departed.
Chanuka is all about the lighting of lights to commemorate the rekindling of the menorah in the second Beis Hamikdash (Temple) by the Hashmonaim after they defeated the Greeks.
Our tradition teaches that it is not by accident that Chanukah falls during the winter; the darkest and harshest of all the seasons; a season of short days, long nights, cold temperatures and severe weather. For winter represents the long exile of the Jewish people which began thousands of years ago after the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash, continues through the present, and will end with the coming of Moshiach. Chanukah and its eight days of lights remind the Jew that no matter how dark his existence, the Almighty is with him to light his way through the darkness. “For even as I sit in darkness Hashem is my light”, says the prophet.
Perhaps, the same is true of the candles which we light when we are in mourning. At our saddest moments, when we mourn the passing of a loved one we light a candle – as if to say – “Hashem I am in such pain, but I take comfort in knowing that You will light my way through the darkness of the valley death and return me to brighter days.”
May we merit lighting the candles of our faith together in Jerusalem – soon and in our days.
A lichtigin Chanukah to all.