Each day it gets darker earlier in the evening. As the sun sets in the late afternoon, things seem to get quieter, more subdued. The lack of sunlight seems to bring a type of mellow melancholy to the end of the day as we don our jackets heading out into the crisp evening air. But over this past week, we have gathered together as families and friends to break the quietude of the evening with light and song. The light of the Chanukah candles warms us in their glow and the joy of this festival lightens the darkened mood of our winter nights.
This week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, reminds us that even in darkness, there is light. Joseph was cast into the dark pit by his brothers during their jealous rage against him. Yet, while he was sold into slavery in Egypt, Joseph emerged from the darkness to the light of success and substance. It was through the light of understanding and Divine inspiration that Joseph was able to explain the Pharaoh’s dreams, hence allowing Egypt to emerge from the darkness of famine as a light to the nations by providing for those who are hungry. It was Joseph’s brothers who came down from the darkness in Canaan, where the famine was great, and be given a new chance to life. Joseph lifted the veil of his secret identity and showed them that while his world was darkened because of their relationship, that everyone deserves another chance toward redemption and forgiveness.
Joseph emerged from the darkest times of his life and found new meaning in his world and his place within it. From him and from this season, we know that life is ever changing. From light to darkness; from joy to pain; from ups and downs and left and right – our world is never static. Our world is never what we always think it to be. One light, one flame can change a moment.
While Chanukah will come to an end on Thursday and the last candle will be lit on Wednesday night, and while the darkness of the evening will descend upon us again, we must hold on to the light of Chanukah and the light that is caused by just a moment, a touch, a word. We must recognize that life is never one or the other, it is made up of all the opposites, all of the possibilities that exist.
One of my favorite Chanukah songs is, “Don’t Let the Light Go Out.” It represents for me the idea that we are the bearers of the light. That each of us has the responsibility to carry the flame with us throughout these dark winter days and allow it to inspire us. May each of us emerge from dark moments in our days to ones that are lit by the flame of compassion and understanding. And may each of us hold that candle for one another.