Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hanukkah Day 4 - Diminishing Despair and Growing Trust and Faith

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

Jewish tradition teaches us to take our time when we recite a blessing before doing a mitzvah (commandment). "Time should be taken to pause and consider the kindness of G!d or the gift of a mitzvah opportunity in which one is about to be involved." (Mishnah Berurah, Siman 5:1)

On this fourth night of Hanukkah, we first conclude Shabbat with havdalah, the ritual separating Shabbat from the regular days of the week. Then, back in the world of everyday work and everyday actions of all kinds, we kindle the lights of Hanukkah. As soon as we return to busy mode, we are immediately asked to pause and remember the importance of the Mystery in our lives, the Mystery that brings light into our hearts and our souls, through all of Creation. Whether by day or by night, alone or with others, we best and most fully experience It when we take a moment to stop, breathe deeply, and notice all that is around us. 

Let us remember to pause as we light the Hanukkah candles on this Motzei Shabbat -- Saturday evening.

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

Despair is an easy emotion to experience. All we need to do is watch or read the news and consider the widespread personal and governmental violence that wracks our world, the millions of people who live in grinding poverty every day, the superstorms and droughts and heatwaves that remind us that climate change is ever more surely impacting the Earth and all that lives upon it, and we can easily sink into despair. Despair can also readily overcome us as a result of personal experiences - chronic or severe illness, family members suffering from substance abuse, financial hardships, work that is not fulfilling, losses of one sort or another, and so much more.

It takes trust and faith to overcome despair. Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav, who is known to have struggled with depression, teaches us, "Hanukkah is not just some celebration of miracles performed in the past...It is a guiding light for people from all walks of life, from all eras in time, to see through the darkness of their personal lives and to become part of history...It is also the knowledge that G!d is with us, even when we lose the battle."

There is faith and trust that G!d is with us, and that G!d will be with us, and that we will never be alone. But there is also something even more fundamental: just plain faith and just plain trust. Not trust or faith in anything, but as a state of being. Living with trust. Living with faith. It is a moment-by-moment experience. It is being in the now with confidence, security, and a sense of well being. It is setting despair aside and opening our hearts and minds to find new ways of being, new answers, new avenues. Some of us may attribute such feelings to faith and trust in G!d, while others of us may experience it differently. No matter how we describe it or to what we ascribe it, when we feel a sense of trust and faith in our hearts, it feels just right.

Shavua tov v'Chag Urim Samech - Have a good week, and Happy Hanukkah!

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