Last week, a friend reached out asking for support. She’s feeling lost. She asked if I had any words to help her through. I empathize deeply with her. It’s dark out there – I see it; I feel it.
Hanukkah begins tonight. The story of Hanukkah is a tale of courage, of miracles, of tenacity and defying conformity. It is about standing up for what you believe in and for who you are at your core.
So, who are we at our core? I’ll share my best guess…
There are nine candles on the Menorah.
Eight of the candles are set at the same height, but the ninth candle, the Shamash, is set to the side, or in the center above all of the others, or slightly below them, depending on the design. Some translations for the Shamash are: “attendant, helper, servant.”
For eight nights, the Shamash’s duty is to kindle the other lights. Whether it’s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven or eight candles, the Shamash gets the job done. It doesn’t lose its strength or brightness, it kindles and then it sits, watching over the individual and collective flames, ready to step in if one goes out.
That’s what the essence of this holiday is about – light, pure light. And, light, pure light is our essence, too.
Our light is the kindled, immortal flame of the ultimate Shamash, G-d. We come into this world lit up, ready to be an attendant, a servant and a helper. Yet, so it goes, we grow up, and our flame dims, smothered in the darkness of our ego and our desire to have more and be more and know more, and we forget our purpose of living — we end up feeling lost.
Hopefully, somewhere along the way, we have the courage to ask for help, or someone recognizes we are in need of a little guidance, and it is then that we become aware of our own darkness, of our accrued actions that have buried our eternal flame so deep inside, we can no longer see.
However, it’s still there, and if we have the strength to sit in the darkness, with the discomfort of uncertainty, we begin to see again. And then, we can fulfill our work, the work we are meant for – to illuminate and remind others of their own Shamash.
In this dark, dark world, it is our job as helpers, as Shamashim, to ease the suffering of those around us by touching them with our kindness, with our love, with our understanding, with our honesty, and with the authentic, illuminating gifts we’ve been given to share with the world.