Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hanukkah Day 8 - Treasuring Grief and Moving Forward with Peace

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

And so we arrive at the last night of Hanukkah, we fill the hanukkiah with candles, eight candles for eight nights, plus the shamash, or helper candle. Once again we kindle the shamash, and then we kindle all of these eight candles. Our homes and our hearts fill with the light from so many candles. Shining together, the light of each individual candle multiplies and is magnified by the others around it; "Many candles can be kindled from one candle without diminishment;" (Sifre B'haalot'kha 93) after saying one prayer, another is always available from the same place from which the first one came. An eternity exists, of which we can touch one tiny corner.

Hanukkah Day 1 - Dispelling Fear and Finding Courage
Hanukkah Day 2 - Acknowledging Greed and Encouraging Generosity
Hanukkah Day 3 - Eviscerating Guilt by Responding with Action
Hanukkah Day 4 - Diminishing Despair and Growing Trust and Faith
Hanukkah Day 5 - Understanding Anger and Cultivating Compassion, Contentment, and Joy
Hanukkah Day 6 - Resisting Jealousy and Strengthening Gratitude
Hanukkah Day 7 - Healing Hurts and Promoting Well-being
Hanukkah Day 8 - Treasuring Grief and Moving Forward with Peace

Grief - we all experience it. We experience grief when we lose someone, when we lose some thing, when we lose an ability, when we lose a relationship, when we lose a hope, when we lose a vision of the future, when we lose a piece of the Earth - the pathways to grief are many and varied.

What do we do with our grief? The answers are as varied as our countenances. Perhaps we should treasure our grief, for our grief is a great teacher. It is sacred, for out of our grief grows a sense of peace. We understand as we grieve that we can deal with loss. We learn our strength. We gain insight into what it means to be human. And through our grieving we find our deepest gifts, and we find peace. 

HaMakom yinachem etchem, we say to those in mourning - May the Space/Place comfort you. "you are my lamp, Adonai; Adonai turns my darkness into light." (2 Sam 22:29) HaMakom and Adonai - two names for G!d. The "empty space within us as a result of our loss turns our darkness into light. "You, Adonai (i.e. Space), keep my lamp burning; my G!d turns my darkness into light." (Ps. 18:28) The Space within us keeps our lamp burning. The Space within us helps us move forward, turns our darkness into light, and brings us peace.

I invite you, on this last night of Hanukkah, to take yourself on a meditative journey. Envision - or gaze into - the eight lights of the hanukkiah. As you focus on these lights in reality or imagination, feel the light within you, and allow it to grow brighter. Pay attention to what it takes to allow this light to grow. Feel the light within you, sense it. How does it look? Is there action in it? Are there people in it? Keep the image of the eight lights of the hannukiah in sight, and feel the light within you. Then allow these lights within and without to meld together. Feel them all as one. Hold that feeling, and let this light shine in prayer for others, for all the Earth, for the Universe....And when you are ready, come back to the present, holding the sense of light with you.

"Don't let the light go out, it's lasted for so many years. Don't let the light go out, let it shine through our love and our tears." (Peter Yarrow)

Chag Urim Sameach - Happy Hanukkah!


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