Oh Chanukah oh Chanukah, come light the menorah…
As Chanukah goes, we light those lights, doing our best to make each night, just a bit brighter. We’ve heard all the expressions, “a little light pushes away a lot of darkness.” Or “in these dark times, we need to show how to be bright.” My favorite one is “be the light you want to see.”
I want to be the light.
Do I want to be the light or do I want to be the candle? Does it matter? In this case, the light is also a flame of fire, fed by oil or wax; however, fire, while bright and warm/hot, is also the source of great destruction and devastation. Perhaps “being the light” means being good light or flames. Flames the that heal and help, not flames that destroy and hurt?
Fire is a mixed bag in that way. We thank Gd for the fire that He gifted us when we bless the Creator of flames during Havdadah on Saturday night. Yet in California, or Israel and other places, those same flames, when misused wreak total havoc on land and lives.
Some people, like some fires, are loud and bombastic. They do create light and noise, but even though they are generating heat and illumination, they are not necessarily creating healthy light. They are not being the candle, they are not being the light.
Sometimes, you can create a lot more light, quietly and efficiently. Sometimes bigger, just is not better..
There is an ongoing debate of power vs. influence. Which is more valuable and important. Power typically meaning might, and strength, is usable for both positive and negative. A powerful person can affect change that a weaker person cannot. However, a powerful person can also misuse that strength to force their will on others. A powerful person can use their strength to crush and destroy others.
So too with influence. To have the ability to influence another is a great gift, which can be used and misused. To be an influencer for good makes you both great and powerful, and if used to lead others astray, is, well strong but bad.
I think this may be what it means to be the light.
Everyone has the ability to be powerful and influential. We all have light and warmth to share. We need to simply decide how we are going to unleash it. Will it be soft, influential and enduring? Or will it be destructive and temporary?
Those forest fires that ravaged Northern California and Ventura Valley, were mighty and strong, but they will never be remembered as being beautiful and wonderful. They were powerful but mercilessly destructive.
Being the light, means accessing the inner resources that I have within, and using them to make me both powerful and influential in a kosher way, in a helpful way, in a healing way. Then, and only then am I the light. And you can make a bracha on it.