love and ego

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Many years ago, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, of blessed memory, was visiting with friends and students in Jerusalem. Word of his presence in our city soon spread among his followers, and one by one and then in small groups, people started showing up at the apartment where he was staying. Outside, the sun was setting. Inside, it was beginning to get dark. A friend went to the light switch, about to turn on the electric light. But then Shlomo said, I would prefer a candle. A candle was placed in a single candlestick and lit. The sun went down completely, and more people came. After evening prayers, Shlomo asked for more candles.

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Rabbi Shlomo singing with friends

Friends melted the base of a candle and stuck it to a little plate. More and more candles were lit and placed on shelves and on the tops of high book cases. The apartment filled with people and Shlomo encouraged them to light more candles. A few friends went out to get more candles, and soon there were more candles than could be counted. They provided a soft light that filled the room. Friends pulled guitars out, bells and drums, and other musical instruments. We told each other stories, and sang songs together. Though each particular candle offered just a modest amount of light, all of the many candles together filled the apartment with light.

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At one point, when there was a natural pause in the conversation and the music, Reb Shlomo waved his hand, signifying the many candles, he said, ‘You see, each candle is like a human soul radiating its own particular light. But when we are all together, the space is filled with light, and it is difficult to attribute this great light to any specific source’.

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This week began for me with a visit to the rose garden opposite the Knesset, our parliament here in Jerusalem. The newly elected members of parliament were trying to organize a new government. And the news media was filled with dire warnings about what might or might not happen. But now, in the height of spring, the rose garden was filled with flowers, and the sun was shining overhead, and the sky was blue.

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Yesterday was the holiday of Lag B’omer. A day dedicated to the memory of the great mystic, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who was born and married and died on this day, and taught us a mystical understanding of the light in this world. It is also a day in which we remember the struggle of our ancestors against the Romans. It is a holiday which is marked by bonfires and celebration in the middle of a very serious period of time, during which we progress from our exodus from slavery and aspire to the acceptance of enlightenment. And that is such serious work for the soul, that it is a great relief to have a day of fun and joy to offer release from our contemplation on the fact that true freedom is found only when one has a framework of values and intentional behavior.

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dancing around the bonfire

While watching the revelry around the campfires, I was reminded of Reb Shlomo’s words in praise of the candles. Let us remember the unique character of each and every human being, and value his individual contribution to our society. But remember too that the light that we generate is not held within, but is shared by all, lighting up the world around us and bringing us the warmth and happiness of love.

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78 responses to “love and ego

  1. Good morning dear Shimon….what a beautiful post – thank you.
    As you know we have just had a huge election, and the reifications of it will be far reaching…..
    However, ultimately it will be the individual’s contribution to society that brings lights and hope for all.
    Have a wonderful weekend, my friend. xx

    • Yes Janet, I’ve been listening to reports of your elections in England with great amusement, because of the similarity to what happened over here. I can’t help wondering about all those wrong forecasts. But unlike Israel, I hear that there’s going to be an investigation about that in your neck of the woods. And yes, we agree, it is the individual’s contribution to society that we can count on. Thanks for your good wishes. Always sweet to hear from you. xxx

  2. percetakanexpres

    Great post 🙂

  3. How beautiful… Thank you dear Shimon, I felt myself around the candles and listening to all these happenings in this special day… Reb Shlomo’s words are great. Blessing and Happiness, love, nia

    • It was a very special and memorable experience, my dear Nia. I wish you could have been with us. But it’s something that can be done again… to light lots and lots of candles in a room… and see that unique light. I think I will do it sometime soon. It’s so very special. Thanks for your good wishes, and mine to you.

  4. Thank you for sharing the wonderful story of Shlomo Carlbach- I will remember it and tell it to others. I saw him in concert years ago in a small local venue, what an amazing performer. He changed the world of Jewish music and brought us niggunim that will last eternally. My favorite Friday night davening is when it is a “Carlbach minyan” and Kabbalos Shabbos is sung with all of Reb Shlomo’s tunes. Shabbat Shalom Shimon

    • I am so glad you enjoyed the story, Cee. And I am so happy to hear that you too enjoyed seeing him live, listening to him talk and sing. He was such a very special teacher; a man filled with love. I hear there are a lot of Carlebach minyans these days… all over the world. Wishing you a very good week.

  5. Wonderful post and great images Shimon.

  6. Oh Shimon,
    You awoke in me cosy and warm feelings that I felt when close to my mother, then as a child myself, the happiness I felt when cuddling my baby brother, feelings which, later translated into my own personal life and my own home and family.

    I celebrated Lag B’Omer on two occasions in Jerusalem. The warm light of the fires were quite gentle in the dark night with its soft spring warmth. I remember helping a lady I saw leaning on a gate, who was watching the celebrations from afar. I offered her my arm to climb up the hill to the revellers. The ground was a little slippy and she was nervous of climbing solo. Again, I felt inner warmth as she melded in to a joyous group.

    I am glad of your explanation of the festival. I never did fully understand what it was about from explanations given to me.

    The roses in the rock garden are very pretty and perky.

    • I remember that in the past, we once talked about your experience here, and taking part in a Lag B’Omer celebration. That’s really an inside view of Israel, and it makes me happy to know that you got to know us up close. And of course, it is very good to hear of your feelings, hearing of that evening with Rabbi Carlebach. He was such a source of inspiration to many. Thank you very much for your comment, Menhir.

  7. may you and yours be bathed in light as you illuminate a world of uncertainty and help the great traditions of light–from חנוכה to שבת to יום זיכרון and נר תמיד — become ever greater, ever brighter, and be as beacons to others of other traditions, Shimon

    • Your friendship for our people moves my heart, Lance. And especially your use of our language, which is pretty much unknown outside of our small circle. Thanks you very much for your blessing.

  8. …the light that we generate is not held within… well said, Mr. Shimon. I’m making a link of your Love and Ego post, I want to share your beautiful and thoughtful post with my blog friends. Thank you, Mr. Shimon.

  9. Pingback: Alone for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge | The World Is a Book...

  10. What a lovely memory. I couldn’t resist: Though it’s early morning and summer is moving in, I lit a candle to enjoy the light and reinforce your message. Blessings.

    • This is so good to hear, Judy. I was thinking that I want to experience that awesome illustration once again. And hope to have an opportunity to do the same… to bring a great light to a room by lighting many, many candles. It’s something that still lives in my memory.

  11. This was such a meaningful and moving post. Wonderfully written and great tribute to Reb Shlomo. He certainly knew how to bring people together and teach them the significance of sharing and loving each other selflessly. Where there is light, there is hope. When each of us dares to share the light within us, we dare to dream together for a better tomorrow.

    • By the way, I stopped by through Amy’s blog. Wonderful of her to introduce you on her blog 🙂

      • I really do appreciate the fact that Amy recommended this story to others on her blog, and widened the appreciation of Reb Shlomo, and the ideas that he taught.

    • Yes, Reb Shlomo was a great friend and a great teacher to all who knew him. There were so many unique things about him while he lived. But for me, the most unique thing about him, is that I have the feeling he is still alive and with us, even now… years after he left this world. Thank you very much, Mabel for coming by and for your comment.

  12. What a beautiful post to return to Shimon! I love the use of candlelight as a metaphor for the human soul. A simple message that humanity would do well to remember. Thank you for sharing the meaning and joy of your festivals.

    • And thank you very much, Madhu for coming by and for your sweet comment. It’s a great pleasure for me to share what I love with my friends.

  13. That’s a beautiful thought. 🙂

  14. The acceptance of enlightenment…yes, it is more about being willing to accept, than necessarily to strive for. Wonderful post, Shimon.

    • Yes, this is a very important message, Cathy. On passover we celebrate our liberation from slavery. And then on Pentecost we celebrate receiving our book of laws. But when we speak of that, we say, ‘the way was given’. Because each of us has to decide to accept it before it is ours. A person has to commit himself in order to be enlightened.

  15. Beautiful post, thank you! We were in Israel for Lag B’Omer last year, but just missed it this year. I cannot wait to be back in Yerushalayim next week for a month.

    • Thank you very much for coming by, Birder, and for your comment. I wish you a very happy visit here in Jerusalem. These are very beautiful days here, and it is a great pleasure to think of you enjoying them right now. Best wishes!

  16. Love the analogy of the candle that we light each other’s way. And I truly believe in this. Thank you.

  17. Beautiful post. May all of our candles glow together.

  18. I think that the comparison of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach is a perfect metaphor that has more meanings… every living creature (man and animal) has its own light. We have evolved so much that unfortunately we have become blind and we are no longer able to see the “aura”… of many colors and shades, each with a specific meaning compared to the vibrational levels and/or chakras.
    Commemorative celebrations of the “Light” shows knows from centuries to the present day, each civilization has its commemorations, related to different circumstances.
    Actually in Christian churches (the candles of prayer), the candles to be laid before the sacred images of Buddha or Holly Saints, the red lights to keep watch in cemeteries, or even the fires that may be observed between the aborigines of Australia, the Redskins of America, the Siberian Shiamani… and why not, the bond-fire of the first of August, the Swiss National Day.
    But nothing is like the candles that I light up when we eat our dinner in family with love and sharing… with a prayer of thanksgiving in the greatest humility. :-)c

    • So true, Claudine. Every people has a way to tell the story in it’s own language and with it’s own illustrations. But those who are sensitive, know that there is light emanating from every soul, and there is so much to see and learn if we just open our eyes. Thank you so much for your comment.

  19. Let’s hope humanity comes to realise that some day… soon. Thanks so much for sharing

    • There does seem to be reason for optimism, Olga. I think that if we look back in history, we can see a lot of progress in the sensitivity and empathy of humanity.Usually we compare the given situation with what we wish for, and that can be discouraging… but I do believe that in man sectors, things have improved.

  20. Would that all of us around the world see that light within each person. Would that each person around the world value that glow.

    • I join you, Mimi, in your hope. And do believe that each one of us opens possibilities with his or her friends, and bit by bit, our world is getting lighter and more beautiful.

  21. Beautifully written,and these are some of my favorite photos of yours, Shimon…I always recall when you wrote that many of your friends are unaware of your facility with English, which makes your poetry and eloquence all the more impressive to me. You are so very talented.

    These are the lessons of light, dignity, community, and responsibility I try to offer my students, too…there are many riches to mine here, and to share, Shimon, adding your own lovely light to mine, and then to my students…thank you for more of this precious and necessary light in the world.

    • Thank you very much, Kitty. It is such a wonderful opportunity, being a teacher. I am already retired, and free to go back to being a student full time. But I have had the pleasure of sitting and trading ideas with the students of my former students. And those experiences give rise to a great optimism. Wishing you continued success.

  22. Good morning, Shimon…thank you for this reflection…wonderfully told.

  23. What a beautiful thought about candles and our souls. We are all the light of the world in more ways than we know. Have a blessed day, Shimon.

  24. Wonderful storytelling and beautiful images to illustrate your story, Shimon!

    • Thank you so much, Naomi. It’s getting warmer, and there are some very interesting bird songs these days… The very air around us is promising new adventures.

      • That sounds wonderful, Shimon! It seemed as though summer was here for a few weeks, but we are back to chilly and wet for a few days. Wishing you sweet songs, dear friend!

        • Sorry to hear that, but I promise you, it will warm up very soon. Let’s just hope it won’t get too warm.

          • That’s what I love about Seattle. We sometimes have a slow start, with chilly wet days like today. At the height of summer, we have a week or two of hot weather, but mostly we have a Goldilocks summer–not too hot, not too cold. Just right!

  25. Wonderfull story about the candles! Together our light is a powerful and beautiful thing.

    • Yes Bev, now with the new smart telephones, I see more and more people around me who’ve become photographers, and I reflect on that, and think how wonderful it is that there are so many more people looking for beauty all the time…

  26. “remember too that the light that we generate is not held within, but is shared by all, lighting up the world around us and bringing us the warmth and happiness of love”

    so many candles in this world, shining bright 🙂

    • Isn’t it wonderful, Nancy. I think you and I have that good luck in common… having started out in very difficult situations, and seeing life get better all the time. We wouldn’t have thought it then… but in a strange sort of way, we’re lucky. My best wishes to you always.

  27. Hello Shimon, I love your Rose picture and all the photographs you have included in this uplifting post. We do all shine a light and the thought of Reb Shlomo gently getting everyone to join in and sing, is a comforting one. Hugs for you. x

    • And I thank my luck stars for the tape recorder, Jane. For I had many recordings of his singing and his talking too… and a few years ago, I converted a lot of them to digital files, and now enjoy them often, though he has joined his ancestors. Best wishes to you. xxx

      • His spirit lives on and is heard in your heart Shimon. How lovely that you have kept and transferred his recordings. Hugs Xx

  28. What a marvelous holiday and such fantastic pictures! I simply loved the idea of all the lights coming together and having an impact, it’s a good message for me right now as I’ve been a little jaded, so thanks for such an uplifting post.
    I loved the rock roses, I have some of those that are covered in buds.xxx

    • Always a pleasure to share with you, Dina… and it’s interesting what you say about feeling jaded. There are some things we see best in others and not in ourselves. As individuals, we feel the ups and downs, get worn out, and feel jaded. But others see us going up the mountain, and the ups and downs are taken for granted. Lately, I was talking to my daughter Rivka about a problem I had. I was taking it quite seriously. She looked across the table, and dismissed what I had been saying with the comment, ‘oh, the problems of the rich!’ You deserve a sigh when life gets you down, my dear friend… but I love the rich life you lead.

  29. As you know, I enjoy learning about your traditions. Plus, you wonderfully integrate the tradition’s meaning/intent. Thank you! …. By the way, the picture with the white flowers, because of your words I saw candles.

    • Thank you very much for taking part, for sharing, and for being receptive to intent. I’m sure we’ve both been inspired again and again by candles, Frank.

  30. I’m just catching up after being away for Shavuot, and couldn’t leave without thanking you for such a beautifully evocative post. You conveyed such a warm, peaceful feeling, something that is so easily lost in the hurly-burly of our lives here in Israel.

    • You’re right, Anne… it is too easy to get distracted in our country. We have to keep on our toes to enjoy the inspiration between the heartbreaks. Appreciate you comment, and your hard work at trying to get the truth out.

  31. I love the sentiment and the inspiration of the many candles, each one individual yet a part of a greater force. Wonderful!

    • So glad you enjoyed the post, Corina. Shlomo had a great love for his fellow human beings, and I am glad I was able to share a few of his words with you.

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