July 19, 2024
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Leaning In to the Uncertainty of Our Lives

Every Motzei Shabbos I stand by my seat in shul, carefully folding my Shabbos tallit while saying the tefilla of “V’yiten L’cha.” Often I pause for just a fraction of a moment as I give a final glance at the tallit I reserve for Shabbos use. As I close the zipper on my tallit bag, I wonder what will transpire in the week ahead until I see my tallit again the following Shabbos. Many of us may share the same thoughts: Will our week be filled with good news or unfortunate news, on a communal or personal level? Will there be smachot to celebrate, or difficult tidings to contemplate? While there generally is anticipation for the week that lies ahead, there is also uncertainty, and with that uncertainty comes an uncomfortable feeling. Uncertainty can make us feel isolated and hopeless, causing us to long for connection and support.

There is significant discussion among historical rabbinic authorities as to what may be used to light the menorah. The overarching theme is that the fuel and wick must combine to create a strong flame. Undoubtedly, however, to a certain degree, not all of the flames on the menorah are exactly the same. Some tend to appear stronger than others while some last longer even though they are all lit at exactly the same time. The Rambam states that Chanukah begins on the night of the 25th of Kislev. The reason given is that the victory of the Chashmonaim over the Greeks took place on the 25th of the month. The Meiri explains that according to the Rambam, the victory of the Chashmonaim actually took place on the 24th. Why then would the Rambam state that the victory was on the 25th? The answer is that it seemed the war was over on the 24th, but there was not a sense of certainty that the Greeks would stop fighting at that time. The menorah was lit on the night of the 25th to celebrate the victory that was gradually confirmed throughout the course of the day. It became clear that the Greeks were no longer going to continue the conflict. Within this understanding may lie another message of Chanukah—one of hope and faith in times of uncertainty. Imagine how the Chashmonaim felt when they started to begin winning all of their battles. They finally saw the forming of a Jewish victory, and despite the skeptic and dubious mindset of many people, they actually triumphed their enemies! They realized that Hashem indeed supported them in solidifying their success and wronged all the people who believed it could never happen,

We often feel the same sense of uncertainty and doubtfulness that the Chashmonaim felt thousands of years ago. The uncertainty one feels when waiting for medical test results. The uncertainty one feels when waiting to hear back from a job interview. The uncertainty one feels as to whether a person we care for will forgive us for hurting them. During these times of uneasiness, one can turn toward the flame of the menorah for the comfort that is so deeply desired. As explained by Chazal, a flame resembles the Jewish soul. The soul is what connects us to the only One who can truly understand and empathize with our hardships. Once a flame is lit, as long as fuel remains the flame will never extinguish. The fuel of our souls is our faith. If we strengthen our faith, the uncertainty in our lives may become a little less uncomfortable, and we may not feel as if we are alone in our struggle. As the flame flickers we are reminded that Hashem will always be there and has a master plan. We are not perfect when it comes to our faith, but we are also not alone. As Torah Jews, we constantly believe that Hashem awaits for us to reach out to Hhim for comfort, and yearns to help support each and every one of us through difficult times. Gazing at the flames on the menorah helps us recognize that we are not alone and assists us through even the most painful, troublesome and challenging moments. As we return our menorahs to their stored locations at the conclusion of this Chanukah, may we keep the flame that has decorated them flickering within us. May the light of our menorahs shine brightly and allow us to lean in to the uncertainty that lies ahead of us in life, with the comfort of knowing that Hashem accompanies us on our journey. Chanukah sameach!

By Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler, LCSW

 Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler is rabbi of Congregation AABJ&D in West Orange, New Jersey, and is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice. Rabbi Zwickler can be reached at [email protected].

 

 

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