Dark and Light
To make it through the dark dark of winter, when daylight contracts to a few bright hours, the sun-ball tossed over the horizon in a low hanging lob, Jewish wisdom prescribes an eight day Festival of Light. Political origins aside, the holiday is an eight day meditation of the meaning of light. Bring the lights into your home, stare at them for eight evenings, shine them in the windows so others can see too. Be inside metaphors of light.
The Zohar, archangel of Jewish mystical texts, presents this stunning meditation:
In the flame itself, there are two lights
One white and luminous, the other black or blue
The white light is the higher of the two, and it rises steadily
The dark light is underneath as a pedestal
The two are inseparably connected.
The white resting and enthroned on the black
The base in turn attached to something beneath it (the wick)
And it keeps it aflame and impels it
to cling to the white light above.
The dark sometimes turns red
But the white light above never changes color.
The lower light, which is sometimes black
sometimes blue sometimes red
Is a link between the white light above
And the concrete body (the wick) below,
Which keeps it aflame.
The red light consumes anything beneath it
And anything it touches
For such is its nature,
to be a source of destruction and death
But the white light above it
Never consumes or destroys, and never changes.
The repercussions of this teaching are thus: that our darkness and our light are inseparably bound, the concrete body and the dark flame, even with all the pain and hardship and suffering they cause us, are the sources, pedestals for our true eternal flame. The mishigas of egos, and bodies, and loss, and all that we cry and mourn over, this is the very stuff the light lives on.
I’ve been within my own dark in the past weeks -- mental sufferings, frustrations, places of stuckness. And when the dark is isolated, it expands. But in light of this teaching, the dark is reframed. The dark flame, all the mental tribulations and strivings, have purpose unto themselves -- they are the bridge from wick to flame. Our yearning, even when it is partial and small, is that which brings light into the world. At the darkest hour then, the wisdom is not to turn away from the dark towards the light, but to see the dark for what it is, the source by which the light comes through. You will not be able to burn your light, unless you are willing to burn your dark.
You are a candle unto yourself. A unique flame, unparalleled in all of existence. No one else can illumine the world with your light. Don’t be shy. Find your dark and share your light. You cannot know who needs it most — so give it freely to all.
Shabbat Shalom. Happy Chanukah!
Rabbi Zach Fredman