Candlelight: Connecting the Finite to the Infinite on Chanukah
When Chanukah came on Tuesday night, I was drained like I haven’t been drained in quite some time. My baby had begun teething the night before and had woken up half a dozen times. My older son (who’s been screaming out randomly at night) also woke up several times. Despite barely sleeping, I had to get out early to meet a friend that morning and then spent the day filming a new video.
Between a non-sleeping night followed by an action packed day, by the time I drove home later that evening, I had almost nothing left. And then my baby didn’t sleep again that night. Then, the next day, he continued to be miserable – crying, screaming, needing to be held constantly, refusing to nap. As I attempted to comfort myself, I tried to keep everything in perspective. “Sure my head is about to explode,” I thought, “but thank God no one is seriously ill.” “Sure I’m exhausted beyond belief,” my head voice continued, “but it’s not like this is the Holocaust,” at which point I realized that when you try to comfort yourself by remembering that the Holocaust was worse, you’re either feeling really overwhelmed or are extremely melodramatic. (I was guilty of both.)
As we began to light the menorahs that first Chanukah night, I thought about how limited we are in our physicality. It didn’t take much to expend nearly all my resources – just a puny teething baby. But on Chanukah, we’re obligated to believe in the Infinite. In a miracle that imbued oil with a power to burn longer than it should have, that enabled a group of soldiers to possess more might than should have been possible.
How can we believe in the Limitlessness, when we’re immersed in a world of limits, I wondered. And then I saw the fire. I watched how one little glowing candle began to give of itself, but the more it gave itself away, the more the light continued to grow. Fire is a physical element, and yet it seems to be a gateway to the Infinite. It is of this world, and yet something about it is other-worldly.
Faith in miracles takes suspension of disbelief, but as I watched those ethereal flames dancing in the window, it occurred to me that believing in only the physical requires suspending one’s disbelief as well. Despite being beaten down, the light inspired me to go on; my love for my child was boundless in its own way, causing me to keep giving, even though I was sure there was nothing left, spreading my resources beyond their limits, like the miracles of Chanukah themselves.