On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere ventured forth on the legendary “Ride” that was later (in 1860) memorialized by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…
He said to his friend, ‘If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North tower, as a signal light, —
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm.
Far beyond mere sources of heat or illumination, candles serve as orators. They send messages. Sometimes covert. Sometimes overt. Sometimes strategic. Sometimes celebratory.
Birthday candles speak, and yet they convey a message entirely different than the candles that accompany one’s anniversary dinner. Stepping into the realm of the spirit, Yarhtzeit candles bespeak words of consolation and remembrance while the Shabbos candles bespeak menuchah and restfulness.
The same olive oil. The same wick. The same flame – yet each offers a distinctly different connotation and significance to the eye of the beholder.
As I write, one singular flame from our Menorah is still wavering. By way of contrast, down the block there is a residence bearing more lights than the runways at JFK. He’s got reindeers and trees and stars and more reindeers. One can only fathom the kilowatt hours he accrues on his utility bill this time of year.
And yet we, Yidden, all across the globe gain so much inspiration and chizuk from these timeless, simple, plain and pashut lights. The same lights that Yidden have been inspired by for so many centuries amidst so much darkness.
As you know, the Festival of Chanukah was the last “holiday” implemented by our Sages and thus, it is not unreasonable (at all) to conjecture that every message the Am Yisrael needs to span the centuries can be found amidst the Neiros of Chanukah. So simple and yet so profound. So delicate that a faint breeze could extinguish them and yet so eternal that the winds of change could never snuff them out.
We have but two nights left to plumb the depths of their profundity and to internalize the timeless messages that lie within. Two nights for us to attune our heart, mind and soul to seek meaningfulness, inspiration and hope from those Chanukah lights.
May we all merit to find clarity, comfort and joy from those neiros and may they illuminate our lives and those of Yidden everywhere.
Good Shabbos and Happy Chanukah!