TO APPRECIATE THE CHANUKAH FLAMES WE NEED TO NOT JUST LOOK AND SEE THEM; WE NEED TO LISTEN TO THEM.
By Rabbi Simon Jacobson
“We need to listen to what the Chanukah flames tell us,” says the Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak. But how do we listen to flames? We can see them; we can study and meditate on them. But light is a visual, not an audible, experience. A pure flame does not give off sound. So how do we listen to the Chanukah flames?
The answer lies in understanding the nature of the flames and in their message to us. Why do we light Chanukah candles in the first place? The historical/technical reason is to commemorate the miracle of discovering and lighting the oil of the Menorah in the time of the second Temple, after the Greco-Syrians defiled it. However, the question remains: Why is the light of the Menorah so important in the first place that we should care about its desecration and reconsecration? What power do these flames contain that till this very day we continue to kindle them every year on Chanukah?
“The flame of G-d is the human soul.” The light of the Menorah is the light of your soul, and the story of the flame is the story of your life. Look closely at a flame and you can see yourself in its flicker. The flame licking the air reflects your soul’s transcendent yearnings. The restless flame tells the story of our restless lives, as we fluctuate between tension and resolution. The light generated from the burning fuel mirrors the work we do in transforming matter into spirit (energy). The light and warmth of the flame is the way we should be illuminating and warming every person we meet.
To appreciate the Chanukah flames we need to not just look and see them; we need to listen to them—listen to the flames as they manifest in our souls, and its dignified journey on this earth. And this is no small feat. Most of our time and energy is immersed and invested in our needs to survive and function in the material world. We have little time and strength for our souls. Comes Chanukah and it compels us to stop, to slow down our outward drives that so consume us, and travel inward. Light a flame each night, and then listen to its story. Look deep into the flame and you will see… yourself. This restless, rising, illuminating, warming flame is you, the real you, not the one that wears many different masks to suit different occasions, not the “outer you” submerged in your material struggles. The flame is the real you—your soul waiting to be released.
I have had the privilege to celebrate Chanukah and experience the release of many good souls, with drums, light, melodies and just plain warmth and tenderness. Above all, we listen. We listen to the flames, to each other, to voices within and above ourselves; we listen to our souls instead of our bodies. For a few hours at least, we free ourselves from the narrow confines of our daily routines, which hold us hostage in its tentacles, and allow our souls to take over. The result is: pure magic, unbelievable energy. That is the power released when matter converts into energy. I have been blessed with the opportunity to bring souls together, to bridge people from diverse backgrounds and create new connections of networking souls intersecting and intertwining with each other. Is there a greater pleasure in life than to see souls breathing, connecting, creating music together?
And when matter converts into energy—voila! Magic happens. Try it out. Gather family and friends, and for that matter, strangers as well. Gather in a Chanukah celebration or any get-together that lifts people from their immediate, materialistic concerns to a sublime environment, and watch those flames rise; witness the power and energy that rises when souls come alive. Listen to the flames. Listen to your soul. Listen to your children. Listen to others.
Speak less. Listen more. Listen. Happy Chanukah.