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Chanukah 2012: What Happened to the Darkness?

By Rabbi Mendy Carlebach of Chabad of North & South Brunswick.

Ever eat a doughnut and wonder where the hole went?

This age old questions has plagued carbohydrate-saturated humanity for years. Yet the answer still evades us. A similar question, though less popular, has been asked by great Jewish thinkers of the past: When one lights a candle in a dark room, where does the darkness go? 

The answer given is that darkness has no existence of its own. It is a non-entity because it is simply the absence of light. Once a candle is lit, the darkness disappears. It doesn’t go into the closet, or to the next room.

It simply disappears. When igniting a small flame in a dark room, the room immediately becomes illuminated with the light of the candle. The larger the flame, the more illuminated the room becomes.

Nevertheless, even the smallest flame is enough to expel the darkness. Because darkness is nothing. 

On Chanukah we light candles. On the first evening of Chanukah we light one candle. On the second night we light two, and so on, until the eighth night of Chanukah when all eight candles of the Menorah are lit. We start with one candle, enough for the initial expulsion of darkness.

Each day we go a step further in brightening our lives with another candle, until the light reaches its ultimate goal; to completely dispel the darkness. Every year on Chanukah we celebrate the great triumph of the Macabees, led by the illustrious Judah the Macabee, over the vast Greek armies which had invaded the Holy Land of Israel, and threatened to prevent the Jews from practicing their traditions. 

The Macabeean army, small and weak as they were, prevailed, with the help of G-d, over the intruding enemy. The victory is a symbol of a small glimmer of light being triumphant over the great darkness, which seemed to be in command. With the notion that darkness is but the lack of light, the victory was easily attainable. 

This is the ongoing battle we face every day. In a world where G-dliness is, say, not on everyone’s prioritized agenda, one may feel at times that darkness is in fact prevailing. It may seem that the mundane is sometimes taking more precedence in our daily lives and directing our every day activities.

To combat the darkness, which conceals the G-dly light, we must light that small candle; bring that little bit of G-dliness back into our lives. Once we begin with that, with the tiny flame within us, the process of ridding the world of spiritual darkness will increase, until we will be able to bask in the ultimate G-dly light. 

Rabbi Carlebach is the director of Chabad of North & South Brunswick, NJ. He can be reached at rabbi@southbrunswickchabad.com

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