illlumin8: 8 nights, 8 spotlights
This Chanukkah R’ Sharon Brous of IKAR (LA) and Amichai Lau-Lavie of Lab/Shul (NY) collaborate to create a virtual ritual upgrade toolkit getting us to shine our light with more purpose and intention. For 8 nights, illlumin8 will instigate conversations as the candles burn, so we can elaborate, recalibrate and celebrate!
Compassion8, Night Three (Dr. Ruth’s Advice)
People, I implore: do not light these lights alone.
Take Nina. 55, divorced, Israeli immigrant, living alone in NYC. She refused to light Chanukah’s candles this year or go to Thanksgiving. when I called her last night she was angry and defiant – ‘who needs this?’ – trapped in her own vicious circle of feeling betrayed by the world. The last thing she needs, she says, is to light candles and bless a God she no longer believes in and but now also blames for her being alone. How many like Nina are out there today, bitter and alone and feeling isolated? Recent research proves what every poet knows and each of us experienced: loneliness can kill you.
We all take turns being alone and sometimes lonely. I am often there myself. And so, I ask: let’s not light these lights alone. Fire is our oldest tool against the cold. Can we be compassion8 and plan ahead to think who we will light with tonight, or tomorrow,or the nights to come, to shine our light on one of the modern world’s worst afflictions: being so connected and yet so very alone? Reach out, with compassion, and invite someone to light up – for the simple reason of being less alone. I think that that is the first thing Nina – and so many of us – need. Not the God part necessarily, the religious obligation – but the human warmth and the act of lighting a candle or three with hope. Check out what the world’s beloved sex therapist had to say to that: Dr. Ruth’s Chanukah Advice.
The Thankschanukah combo got me rearranging Tupperware with leftovers this morning and thinking about Nina and about how critical – like oxygen – it is for us to come together and celebrate what matters in life. Family, friends, strangers and neighbors gathered yesterday for a ritual that transcends national political or religious lines and is simply about the oldest human need for connection, for being together. And now that the turkeys are over, we Jews are left with six more nights that can be more of the same, or can keep getting better. Each remaining night of Chanukah this year, and every year, can be, ought to be, another opportunity for conscious and deliberate togetherness, not just with the family and friends we know and love and live with – but beyond – to include others in our wider circles who also really need the warmth, the light, the relief from loneliness, depression, the shame of all that’s dark.
Tonight begins the Shabbat of Chanukah, with three candles in the menorah, two or more for the Sabbath Queen, and I hope that our tables are extended to include the single, widow, orphan, immigrant and stranger that the Torah reminds us to always remember because we were once those and we will be again, and because this extension of compassion is that only thing to break the vicious cycle of the dark.
Nina won’t come out tonight, though I asked and asked. But I told her, instead, that at 4pm EST today, just before Shabbat, I will be on my Facebook page, lighting up my menorah before heading out to friends uptown. I’m inviting her and now all of you to join me. Comment, post, be present even via virtual. It’s not as good as looking good in candle-light, but it’s good enough, for now.
Let’s light up the dark and celebrate compassion, human care, with a simple gesture of hope and connection. Shabbat Shalom and go night #3!
PS happy birthday R Sharon! May the 40 portals open onto vast realms of mystical meanings and ever growing grace, compassion, love.)
PPS Turns out that both R Sharon and I spoke about this very issues on Yom Kippur. Check out R Sharon’s Kol Nidrei sermon on podcast: The Amen Effect.