When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” — Exodus 3:4
Today is the seventh 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.
Maybe you have had this experience. You are driving somewhere and before you know it, you arrive – only you don’t remember getting there! While you were driving, your mind was on other things — you may have been making a grocery list, thinking about an argument that you had with your spouse last night, or planning a meeting coming up later in the day. Your body was physically present in the car, but your mind was elsewhere.
This phenomenon can creep up in all areas of our lives. We may look like we are driving, cooking, working, or reading a story to our child, but really, we are living in the past, or the future, or in the next room. Sadly, when we do this, we miss out on the life that is happening right now, exactly where we are.
Consider that just before Moses encountered God in the burning bush, Scripture tells us “the LORD saw that he had gone over to look.” The Jewish sages teach us that Moses was not the only one to pass by the burning bush; however, he was the first one to really notice it and take time to really look at it. When God saw that Moses went over to examine the bush, that’s when He decided to appear to Moses. Had Moses passed right by, lost in his thoughts, he may have never become the great leader he was.
The message is that we have to be present in our lives if we are going to make the most of the time we are given. We have to notice what’s going on right here, right now. It’s only when we take the time to really see what’s going on around us that we can encounter God. When we live distracted and fragmented lives, we will have a hard time even catching a glimpse.
Tonight, as on all eight nights of Hanukkah, Jews around the world will light their menorah candles. According to Jewish law, the lights of these candles can only be used for looking at, and not for anything else. For example, we can’t use them as a reading light and we can’t use them for lighting other candles. We are supposed to sit next to the candles for a half hour and just look at them – nothing else.
In Psalm 46:10 we read, “Be still and know that I am God.” This Hanukkah and holiday season, let’s be still and appreciate the light that’s all around us. Let’s be fully present in the glorious moment that is now. And as we take the time to really see each other, we may just catch a glimpse of God as well.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President