Third year, eighth candle

Screen shot 2012-12-15 at 7.54.43 PM How the menorah looks on the last night.


I missed last night. I thought about it but I was too down about the events in the U.S. to post beyond wondering how long violence like this will continue. [Note: that is not an invitation to a political discussion — my RL facebook feed was triply unpleasant today because of that.] Plus, the seventh night is usually associated with Judith, and this is an amazingly violent story. I’d like to believe that we don’t have to kill our enemies in order to free ourselves from them, or at least not in every case.

Praying hard tonight for peace everywhere. Prayers on the last night are held to be especially efficacious because there are eight candles, but only seven days of creation.

“They” (whoever they are) say you’re not supposed to study Kabbalah (Jewish mystic writings) until you’re forty. (Well, “they” actually say “a man shouldn’t study Kabbalah till he’s forty.”) I have to admit I always thought that was stupid on both counts but then, I didn’t care that much about mysticism anyway. Now that I pray with Lubavitcher Hasidim, I do — and I kind of get why “they” (whoever they are) would say that about being forty. I’m still struggling with the question of coincidence versus plan — my rational self says things happen by coincidence or for intelligible reasons. But mysticism seems to suggest there are no coincidences and we don’t always know the reason. Since Armitagemania I’m starting to lean more toward the second position. But I also think I wasn’t mature enough to understand or handle this knowledge very well until recently. I’d associate it more with the recovery from tribulation than with turning forty — but I think by the time we turn forty most of us have had one or more severe crises or challenges that make us appreciate the apparently coincidences in the world around us a little more. Gershom Sholem, a leading intellectual light for me, saw Kabbalah as a response to the exile from Spain — this is the kind of experience of tribulation that makes pain have to have meaning.


3127400864_b44bc57c4bNot mine, but a menorah in the “Tree of Life” design that is essentially the same as the one I own.


There’s a kabbalistic meditation based on gematriya that argues that in the fully-lit menorah, the so-called “Menorah of the King,” we see a manifestation of the divine name and the flow of consciousness. The vessels in which the emanations of the Infinite dwelled were shattered at the beginning of human history — but in the fully lit menorah, we can see all the sparks, gathered next to each other. If only they could come together. Lighting the candles thus reminds us of this need of ours and indeed, of this necessity. If the divine is shattered, it must come back together, be put back together. This teaching tells us that the brokenness of life has meaning insofar as it brings us back to the fullness of infinity. We must repair (“rectify”) our own lower creation before this can happen, and the menorah reminds us, makes us aware, that this is possible through our attempts to continue to obey divine commands. The Zohar says, when it is fully lit, “it is the lamp to light up the light of the mitzvah.”

Every shattering is a reminder that creation can be healed, every dispersion a reminder that we can gather the sparks together and make a shining light. If only we heal it, if only we gather.

Human pain is only a coincidence if we say, if we insist, it has no meaning.

Chag Urim Sameach. May the sparks come together for us all, speedily in our days, or to use the secular expression: sooner rather than later.

~ by Servetus on December 16, 2012.

6 Responses to “Third year, eighth candle”

  1. More than ever, we need the light in the darkness.


  2. Rebbe Nachman said… “if you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can repair…”
    This is hope for life….good day “zot Chanukah”!!!


  3. […] eighth night. G-d is supposed to be listening particularly closely tonight. Two years ago I wrote about the conflicts of Judaism and Christianity in my life. Tonight I was […]


  4. […] 2010, I was ready to be done. In 2011, I was heavily focused on the problem of syncretism. In 2012, I got into Chanukkah and Jewish mysticism. And in 2013, I was contemplating brokenness and […]


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