man looking through binoculars

Chanukah challenges and empowers us to see what is real in this world. Life is so much about how you see things – how you see yourself and how you see others.

By Rabbi Moshe Rothchild, United with Israel
(Based on a teaching of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach)

For just a minute, think about all the people whose lives are in shambles because of crime, drugs, violence or just plain old bad decisions. Probably not such a pleasant image. But think about those same people as they entered this world as newborn infants. They were so cute and sweet, and no one had a clue that their lives would be a wreck one day often because of their own actions or decisions, though not always their own fault.

Children have such a special way of seeing the world. They are enthusiastic, positive, hopeful and full of zest for life. They dream that one day they will be great athletes or, perhaps, entertainers. Maybe they see themselves as doctors or entrepreneurs. One thing is for sure, however: They do not see themselves as criminals, drug addicts or thugs. They have a fresh vision of the world. They have a way of seeing things that is so pure.

But what happens? Life happens. They experience disappointments and encounter people who tell them that they are not capable. Sometimes a circumstance such as death or divorce crushes their spirit and changes them. It could be that they fail miserably in school, which destroys their self-confidence and curbs their enthusiasm for living. Maybe a teacher or a spiritual leader had let them down and made them wonder if there really are good people in this world. In essence, they lose that special vision that they had as children. Their sight becomes clouded.

On the holiday of Chanukah we light candles each night, beginning with one candle and adding another each night until the final night when we light eight. In the accompanying prayers that we recite, there is a line that says: “We are not permitted to use these lights, we are only allowed to look at them.” What does this mean? Why do we add a candle each night and why can we only look at them?

Chanukah: Restoring our Sight

Chanukah lights are meant to restore our vision. It is similar to a “reset” button. We cannot use them for anything else; we may only look upon their light. It is a time to return to our original way of seeing the world and ourselves—with purity, innocence and hopefulness. With each night of Chanukah we add light because it takes time to renew. The first day there is just one little flame, just a little bit of fixing without becoming too overwhelmed by the light. After the first night we say to ourselves: “You know what? I can do this. I can see myself differently and get back what I lost.” So we add another candle and then another until we light up the night with all eight.

Do you know what the difference is between a real friend and one who is not so sincere? A real friend tells you that he or she has confidence in you, that you can succeed. And if you fail, a real friend helps you deal with it and move on to the next stage without losing enthusiasm, without feeling like a loser. A pseudo-friend tells you not to waste your time trying to be better because you will just go back to your old ways. You will never succeed at anything. And when you do fail, that socalled friend will tell you that he had told you so.

Chanukah challenges and empowers us to see what is real in this world. Life is so much about how we see things – how we see ourselves and how we see others. There are so many things in the world that can damage our vision and blind us to our own beauty and the beauty in others. There are eight little flames with enough light to restore our vision and refresh our dreams.

Happy Chanukah to all!

Chanukah articles


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