Light as Metaphor

Meditating on the coming season…

When we lost power during Hurricane Sandy last month our family had an opportunity to think about things we usually take for granted—like heat, light and power. Spared the devastation that visited itself on so many, our experience was no more than an annoyance and dislocation. We walked around the house carrying our flashlights, and sat for a while each night in the living room, reading, the room dimly lit by makeshift lamps fashioned of candles which had been set in front of improvised aluminum foil reflectors. How much more light those little reflectors were able to cast onto the room!

One can find quite a bit of material in the corpus of traditional Jewish spiritual writing—and I am sure in other traditions as well—on the difference between, and the relationship between the generation and the reflection of light. Each of us, over the course of a lifetime, has many opportunities to do both.

This weekend (Saturday night to be exact) begins the Jewish Festival of Lights known as Chanukah. In a few weeks, on December 25, comes (for most Christians) Christmas, followed by Kwanzaa on December 26, and then Christmas again, this time for the Armenian Apostolic Church on January 6, and then for Ethiopians, Russians, Ukrainians, Serbians, Macedonians and Moldovans on January 7. The holidays, of course, convey different meanings; and carry, as well, different levels of emotional, religious and spiritual weight in their respective communities (Chanukah, after all—and counter to all appearances in the United States—is still a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar). But what they all do have in common, of course, is the ceremonial lighting of lights on or near the annual winter solstice, the darkest time of year, astronomically speaking.

In what ways does each of us generate light in the world? In what ways are each of us poised to reflect the light of others? Some questions to meditate on, as we celebrate our many seasons of light. May it be, for all us, bright!

Rabbi Mark Sameth is the spiritual leader of Joyful Judaism: Pleasantville Community Synagogue an inclusive, progressive synagogue – with members from twenty towns, villages and cities all across Westchester and “A Hebrew School Your Kids Can Love.” Read The New York Times article. Follow Rabbi Mark on Twitter . Weekly meditation at the synagogue every Saturday morning at 9 am is open to the public; everyone – without exception - is welcome and warmly invited. OUR MEMBERSHIP DRIVE IS ON. See “Top Ten Reasons to Join PCS” at www.ShalomPCS.com.

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Aidan December 09, 2012 at 02:37 PM
There's also psychology at work here ... and I'm always confused about the blurry line between that and spirituality. I don't think the two can be ever be seen separately. It's part of our complexity. Holidays, whether religious or not, are societal periods of renewal. A year is a 365 day period of repetitiveness that can swallow us all. Holidays are little more than periodic "time outs" that are designed to give our souls and hearts are brief respite from a routine that can rip us away from genuine focus of life. All holidays have a focus: Memorial Day reminds us of those who served to protect us. The 4th of July whispers a reminder of our sweet fortune to have landed in this nation. Labor Day hints that we'd better wring out the last of summer ... because our routine is about to change again. Religious holidays have a specialness because it calls on each of us to re-examine relationships ... with our own self as well as with those who circle our world. That's the light we all need. But I never dismiss the sweet dark either. That's a period of undistracted thinking and assessment. We all need to shut down the noise sometimes ... and the dark provides us that ability. I never think of the dark and the light as competitive forces ... though religious texts are fond of that sort of showdown. Both are needed. And sometimes both are needed simultaneously. That's why the appeal of brilliant, colored lights at this light-challenged time of year has such appeal.
Cadeyrn December 11, 2012 at 11:15 AM
No metaphor here ... just a sweet light show for the holidays. http://www.flixxy.com/best-christmas-lights-display.htm#.UMcSwWjxA20


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