A friend of mine was listening to the radio a few weeks ago, and asked me what ‘black Friday’ was. I answered, that I had no idea, but it was probably something connected to the Catholic Church. Shortly thereafter, we got a peek of reality on the TV, as we watched a crowd of buyers surge into some big department store in America in their rush to buy products on sale. Ah, I was wrong; nothing to do with the Catholics… it was the church of ‘free enterprise’ again.
This week I experienced a very powerful personal experience as I waited for some grandchildren to arrive to join me in lighting the first Chanukah candle. Sometimes it is a little difficult for me, these days, to be surrounded by a lot of young and vibrant youths. I get worn out easily. And so I was trying to get in the proper mood. And I listened to a recording of my dear Rabbi, who left this world some years ago. Of course, that meant turning off the radio, and the telephone, and any of the usual things that try to claim my attention. And I heard him tell a story which could easily have been a Zen story if it wasn’t Jewish. And it filled my mind and heart because it was a story about something very simple… and it was the truth. I experienced a catharsis while listening to that story, and for a few minutes I was returned to a state of purity and holiness, and my physical body became like a bell that resonates a true tone.
And later, when I was thinking of writing a post for the blog… I considered describing that experience in detail. But I have been surrounded by friends and family, and holiday spirits, and it was difficult to find the quiet for the time it would take to write the story, as I thought it should be told. And then, a little later, I thought I might write the story that my Rabbi had told. But again I was distracted by real life events. As the time went by, I had a number of ideas about what to write in honor of Chanukah; different aspects of the holiday that I wanted to share with you, my friends. Since the holiday is mostly about the holy temple, which has been shut down now for about 2000 years, I thought of telling about some of the less known aspects of that great institution. There are some people who think of the temple as something primitive; something we no longer need in these modern days, and I was thinking of re-examining the role it played in our lives and community. But these were just thoughts that ran through my mind as I was busy with social contacts in honor of the holiday… and none of it was actually written.
And now, as I approach the Sabbath, which I am spending in the beloved little village of ‘holy fire’ with friends and family, I’ve sat down to write the post before plunging into the totality of the holiday experience combined with the Sabbath. And what I’m thinking is this: It is so easy to be influenced by the general atmosphere at holiday time. And there are a lot of ruthless business men out there, who take advantage of the holiday, or the season, to play on well known themes that we are all attached to in one way or another. On the surface, nothing seems easier than letting the radio or TV run, and watching their offerings, especially since they are geared to the popular sentiments of the day. But we have the choice of turning all of that off, and taking a book into our hands, or a recording of something we really love; something that has given us inspiration in the past. I have heard from some friends, that they’ve developed a dislike for Christmas because it has been hijacked by all those vested interests. Well, we don’t have to let that happen. Even someone who is not moved by religious messages of any sort, can find sanctity in making the choice to turn off all the noise, and take the opportunity to commune with nature at such a time, and to listen to his or her own heart.
And that is my wish for the holiday, that I’d like to share with you. That we turn off all the noise, and listen to our own hearts, and may there be peace on earth, and good will towards man.