Saturday, December 20, 2008
GRATEFUL FOR THE FIRST LIGHT
I can’t help but draw a numerical connection between Chanukah and the lyrics of a song which will be chanted not when there is snow on the ground but when spring starts to release its liberating softness and warmth. The song I have in mind is sung at the Passover Seder –“Who Knows One.” Each stanza asks the question, to children, of course, whether they can identify vital parts of Jewish tradition in relation to their numbers or numerical value.
It seems almost natural to understand, at least poetically and associatively, the significance of the eight candles of Chanukah by looking through the lens of this charming children’s chant.
Moreover, perhaps the consideration of these numerical references will allow us to gain a better sense of newness and freshness with each of the eight nights of the holiday.
We begin, I believe, with the most important night, the first one.
Who knows One? Why is the first night so vital to the miracle of Chanukah?
Its relevance is obvious- One is Our God, Creator of heaven and earth. What does Oneness mean? Why is the Oneness of God so pivotal to the entire structure and enterprise not only of Chanukah but of Judaism as a world outlook and religious culture?
The answers are limitless. I am grateful for the following.
“We are fashioned in the image of Oneness. We reflect Oneness; we each refract it through the prism of our particularity. Each of us is a fraction of infinity. But a fraction of infinity is itself infinity…I am a unique creation; yet my most basic physical substance , my quarks and atoms , are identical with the substance of the antelope, a redwood, a distant star… Each person expresses the oneness in her own way. In the words of the Baal Shem Tov- God wants to be served in all possible ways… the world is teeming with God. Since God is in everything, one can serve God through everything, by raising the sparks.”
The one candle, the Oneness of all, the Oneness of God. As we kindle each light, do we liberate the sacred sparks from the intractable darkness in so many parts of the world? As we ignite the first light, we think of “ECHAD!”
“Unity of God
Is power for unity of God with all things.
He is one in Himself
And striving to be one with the world.”
(Abraham Joshua Heschel)