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Jerusalem

Seeing in the Dark

lighted menorah

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
    Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
    the LORD will be my light.
— Micah 7:8

Today is the final day of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, a celebration of two miracles: the victory of the Jews over the Greeks and the single flask of oil that kept the Temple menorah burning for eight days.

In preparing for Passover, the Bible instructs us to get rid of any leavened bread and any products containing yeast. On the night before Passover, Jews perform a ritual where we search for those forbidden products. We turn off the lights in our homes and go through our houses with the light of a single candle. Ironically, with all the lights on, it would be easy to miss the small crumbs and hidden Cheerios. But in the darkness, with that one candle serving as a spotlight, we see so much better.

Why am I talking about Passover during Hanukkah? It’s because we learn from that Passover ritual how sometimes we see better when darkness accompanies the light. The verse in Micah says, “Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.” Another version reads, “when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me” (ESV). When in darkness, that’s when we see God as our light.

Think about it. When the lights are all on, we miss seeing so many things. Who notices the color of our food, the expressions on the faces around us, the beauty all around us? But sit by candlelight and everything takes on a certain radiance. Things that were overlooked are now in the spotlight.

In the same way, when everything is sunny in our lives – when things are going well – we don’t always see the miracles that God performs for us every single day. The right person showing up at the right time. The car accident that we are unknowingly saved from. God performs miracles for us all the time but we don’t see them. However, in the dark times – when the odds are stacked against us – that’s when we see God’s providence shinning through.

On Hanukkah, we light our candles in darkness. And with those small lights, we are able to see with greater vision than in the brightest of rooms. In fact, tradition teaches that looking at the Hanukkah lights “fixes” our vision. We remember in the darkness how God runs the world and creates miracles in our lives. We recall the miracles of the Jewish defeat over the vastly superior Greek army and how the little flask of oil kept the Temple menorah burning for eight nights. Our vision is restored and we see what we often miss in our day-to-day lives.

Tonight, shine a light on the miracles in your life. Not just the major ones that occurred once, but the ones that occur every single day, the ones that we take for granted. Let’s never lose sight of the message of those tiny lights amidst the darkness. God is everywhere, if only we would see.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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