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Finding Glimmers of Light

 “It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it.” — Rabbi Tarfon

Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.

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Mark Schiff
Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.

As the world turns dark, my job is to shine a light as best as I can and to try, if only a little, to brighten this ailing world back up. I have no illusions that I can fix the world. I am only one person. So perhaps the scope of that light won’t shine much further than on my family, neighbors, a few friends, and my audiences that come to laugh and forget.  At least I am doing something. 

With Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper galloping towards me, hopefully I’ll be given another chance and more time to fix a few of the twisted and broken branches of this world and of my life.  Because to do nothing is a paralyzing thought. To do nothing is to give up my citizenship as a person. To do nothing is to be barely human. To not correct is incorrect. We have seen where the world heads when people either do or say nothing either consciously or unconsciously.  It’s too late to do nothing. The clock will not tick backwards. 

As we are now witnessing, it’s much easier to destroy than it is to build. Since I have become aware of this, my soul has been ignited. I have always cared about people, goodness, and fair play.  I haven’t always acted like I cared, though. I spent many years silently riding the merry go round, worrying more about my credit rating than the rating of my soul.  The rabbis might say I was asleep and that saddens me. I personally feel somewhat responsible for the decay.

But thank God, caring was always in me. I now recognize it. I finally hear an echo from the mountain. The supreme voice is angry when I sit still as if I have earned idle time. The voice asks that I do something. Something that proves I am not just words. Something that shows I believe in him and his children. 

As the curtain falls on my 60’s and I realize I have so little time left, my eyes have snapped open. A day does not pass where I don’t worry about my family’s safety. I care more about being a good husband, father, grandfather, and friend.  I care more about being a good Jew. I have never been prouder than I am today of my Jewish soul. I have never been more grateful for the gift I was given when I entered this world.  It makes me think that, because of the depth of my love for being a Jew, the roots of these feelings, coupled with my anxieties for my people, are connected to the long, arduous and treacherous roads my people have had to march down, many times, to their deaths. These feelings are so strong that it makes me think that this is not the first time my neshamah (soul) has entered the Jewish maze. It all feels so eerily familiar.

People are scared. People are angry. People need assistance. A simple hello or phone call can reach the heart as quickly as any bullet. 

So, while the roots of our lives are being torn away, prayer, kindness, a hello, a smile, or a phone call asking how a person is has more power than ever before. People are scared. People are angry. People need assistance. A simple hello or phone call can reach the heart as quickly as any bullet. 

The rabbis have told us that we can’t solve this. We can’t fix this. But we still must do our part.   Mother Teresa did not complete cleaning up Calcutta.  The Chofetz Chaim did not end Lashon Hora (negative speech), but he did what he could.  

So now, God forbid, before the dark turns permanent and the door is sealed behind us on this Yom Kippur, I choose to light the few new candles.  A little light is better than none. I believe that each flicker of a candle is a wink from God to keep going.


Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.

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