Clarity of the Light | By Harav Y R Rubin

Clarity of the Light

By Harav Y Reuven Rubin Shlita

Chanuka is such a scrambled affair; it’s half Yom Tov, half weekday. You go to work, then come home and are transported to another realm. The family gathers together, your kids finally get off the phone, all is quiet and the candles are lit. Songs are sung, and then you just gaze at the flickering lights as your thoughts travel…

The flames defy all reason. They strive against gravity, seeking to go up where everything else is drawn down. The mind wants to be focused on matters that also defy nature. You so want to rise like the flickering lights, above the here and now, beyond the mundane. As is always the case, one’s mind seems to be running at one hundred miles an hour, and so many different ideas crash through it with a jarring momentum.

You try to slow things down, bring a sense of calm to everything and actually hear what your brain is saying. You gaze into the lights. It’s Chanuka — anything is possible. Perhaps this tangled mixture of the everyday and the holy is just the point. Given where our society is today, shafts of light piercing the darkness of the drudgery of daily life are what miracles are made of.

Yidden can get through all of life’s difficulties if we only remain good brothers to each other

Let me share just such a light that came my way. I was talking to a very close friend who for the last few years has nursed his young wife through cancer. He told me that recently, when he was visiting her in the hospital, he came across an article entitled, “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People.” This is not a new topic, nor is it one that has a definitive answer. However, the author of the article decided to answer the question in his own words, some of which I would like to reveal to you.

He wrote:

“ This question is asked specifically with reference to cancer. Cancer in all its forms is horrible at best. The treatment is nasty and more often than not causes more visible illness than the cancer itself does until its later stages. It has to be said also that cancer is indiscriminate, and whatever the sufferer’s walk of life, no one deserves to be ill.”

Here I would like to point out that the writer of these words is not an ordained rav, nor has he even had a yeshiva education, but he speaks from a place so deep that he touches one’s core. The article continues:

“However, with all this in mind, there are things that happen to you when cancer hits that change your entire outlook on life. There is the gut-wrenching feeling that hits you as you are told what the problem is, the panic at the thought that a loved one is going to die (even when it’s a treatable form, the first thought is about mortality). How are you going to tell people? Are you in fact going to tell them? Why me? Questions zoom around your mind, words are spoken by doctors, and just trying to comprehend what’s wrong with you or your loved one suddenly becomes harder than anything you have ever done in the past. Life has just taken on a whole new meaning, and you haven’t even left the consulting room.”

“What, you may ask, is my point? The point is that as your life suddenly falls apart and everything seems lost, stop and look around, the basics that mattered before now don’t seem quite as important.

Soon you find yourself talking to strangers about life issues when you never would have before. You know they are sincere because their attitudes to life have just been altered as well.

Amazingly, these people whom you have only just met become important to you in a short time. You sit in the waiting room and see the same person sitting there every week. It starts with a smile, and you start talking. Then you find yourself rooting for this person as well as yourself… If you don’t see him for a week, you worry about him — and he feels the same about you. You are now affecting another person’s life for the better; you’re helping someone purely by being a part of his life for thirty minutes a week.

There is another type of person that you meet who does more for you than just “help”; they actually make you want to succeed. Their actions are astounding. They not only cope with their illness with grace and dignity, but they embrace the struggle, they use the adversity to grow and improve themselves, and this rubs off on you. You see that while life is tough, there are ways of changing things for the better, maybe not in terms of the illness but definitely as a human being.

These people stay with you forever; they affect you profoundly and you will always remember them… When things get tough, you ask yourself, What would So-and-so do? And even though they may not be there physically, that special feeling that they gave you helps you through your crises.

Now, at long last, the point of all this: If you are a good person and become ill, it may not be a punishment — it may just be that you are needed to help someone else through a tough time. Grab the opportunity. Having a profound effect on just one person’s life may not justify any illness, but it may help you, and in turn you will be able to help them and others. We must take the opportunity to learn from adversity and use that knowledge to improve ourselves and those around us. I know it has helped me.”

What a Chanuka gift! The basis of the Chanuka miracle was that Yidden were ready to support and help each other, despite all the odds, despite the enemies around them. Chassidim tell of one Chanuka in Gur when the crowds who came to witness the Rebbe’s menora lighting were so huge that one could hardly breathe. Into this sea of humanity walked the Gerrer Rebbe, the Imrei Emes, ztz”l. He looked around and indicated that his youngest child, the future Pnei Menachem, was missing.

People searched for the child. He was nowhere to be found. Then there was a movement in the rear of the large hall. Through the crowd strode the Rebbe’s oldest son Harav Itche Meyer, carrying on his shoulders his youngest baby brother. As he entered the circle that surrounded his holy father, he gently set the lad down. The Rebbe bent down and whispered, Ehr iz a gutte bridder, “He is a good brother.” The chassidim understood this to be the lesson of Chanuka — Yidden can get through all of life’s difficulties if we only remain good brothers to each other.

My writer friend is telling us the same thing. In this difficult life, we can survive when we share and support each other. There is no greater darkness than that experienced when facing a life-threatening illness, yet at that very edge of existence, such lofty truths can be found.

The mind spins with one’s daily problems. Sit a while and look at the lights; let them ease the pain. They defy all nature — so can you. They fly up — so can you. It’s yours for the taking; just let your mind focus.

We burn thirty-six lights over the entire Chanuka period. This represents the first thirty-six hours at the beginning of Creation when a unique light lit this world. That light was so strong that Hashem has hidden it away for when Moshiach comes. Some may ask: What is the need of a light that no one sees, that remains hidden from sight? Perhaps knowing it is there is important for our hopes — or perhaps it is not actually all that hidden. We see glimpses of it in the words of the Torah and in the flashes of spiritual heroism in those around us — or, maybe most of all, in hospital waiting rooms. 


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