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Holding Onto the Light

The spark that creates light is the magical moment when the darkness becomes less pervasive, when it begins to shift from its enormity and lessens its hold on us.
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January 18, 2024
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The spark that creates light is the magical moment when the darkness becomes less pervasive, when it begins to shift from its enormity and lessens its hold on us. Every cell in our being responds and reverberates within, igniting a sense of possibility and hope. In times such as ours it is the salve we hunger for, the medicine that nourishes, whether you are rich or poor. It is like the glow that pervaded the Universe when G-d said, “Let there be light.”

When Hanukkah comes to an end, we wonder how can we hold on to the light. How can it continue to flicker, even dimly, within our core being so that it accompanies us through repeated challenges and the vast cascading events that persist throughout the world? How can we stoke the flame, especially as Jews, in this country, amidst the fear, intimidation, and insecurity we all feel? How do we let the light burn off the negativity and disgust that rises when we see injustice prevail? How do we seize the moment, nurture the flame so it is like the burning bush that shone brightly before Moses without destroying itself. Well, as Elizabeth Barrett Browning once said, “Let me count the ways?”

Social scientists, movement/exercise gurus, musicians, artists, healers, clergy, and mystics all have their own solutions. Within every discipline there are masters who have perfected a way to expand one’s vision, move beyond the limitations we often feel, and find that inner flame. For the psychologist it’s about reinforcing positivity, shifting our perceptions to find the good, the productive and gratitude; for the movement and body centered guru it’s about feeling one’s energy, have it flow while discovering strength, agility, and wholeness; for the musician it’s resonating with the sounds and the vibrations that sync with our heartbeat; for the artist it’s about feeling free to express one’s creativity, innovative ways of thinking, forming and shaping new objects or perhaps exploring expressive palates of colors or shimmering textures; for the healer it’s focusing on well-being and self-care, nourishing the senses, quieting the mind; for clergy it’s tapping into deeds that nourish others, assigning time for prayer and Torah study; and for the mystic it’s identifying with the Name, attaching oneself, in D’veykut, to the Holy One through meditation, imagining an elevated journey through the many chambers beyond in a golden chariot. Any one of these becomes a doorway to nurture the very essence of one’s passions so the flame is constantly aglow. My teacher Rabbi Mel Gottlieb would remind us of the Kotzker Rebbe’s great teaching, “Any way is a way, as long as you make it a way.”

What is even more assuring is that learning something new is the greatest gift you can give yourself for longevity. 

The most astounding affinity all these disciplines have is that it is in the brain where change, transformation, and enlightenment truly occur. And what is most comforting of all, is that neuroscientists keep reminding us that this organ is one of the most plastic and malleable we possess. What is even more assuring is that learning something new is the greatest gift you can give yourself for longevity. Paradoxically, it is the home of our most nourishing as well as our most destructive hormones. It is the place that can determine whether we see the glass half full or half empty, and ultimately it is how we choose to feed certain activities which will predispose us to one over the other. How comforting it is to know that paying attention to something fulfilling, that nurtures your soul can bring a sense wholeness and peace and perhaps even prolong your life. 

The ability to keep the light burning is not the issue. We all have the capability. It is a matter of choice and intention. Deciding to follow our heart’s passions and stoke the fires within our soul is what keeps the flame alive. It takes consistent dedication. In a culture so driven by multi-tasking, pervasive interruptions, and constant noise, we must be driven to find what is most pleasurable, productive, and engaging of our being. 

As we start the secular new year, it is an opportune moment to truly focus on what brings you joy and what feeds your soul. When you do, the light will be radiant and will fill your whole being.


Eva Robbins is a rabbi, cantor, artist and the author of “Spiritual Surgery: A Journey of Healing Mind, Body and Spirit.”

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