Photo Credit: Courtesy Rabbi Lebovic
Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic

The candle. What a central place it occupies in the Jewish religious cycle. A child is born: candles are traditionally lit at his bris and then later at his chuppah. On a weekly basis, Shabbos lights are an integral part of every Friday eve. Our prayers are led by the light of candles, and every year we kindle the Chanukah lights.

Among other things, the candle represents the human soul eliciting a fiery component in its earthly recipient, the human body. A vibrantly healthy body is comparable to a wick ready to be lit, but it is incomplete unless and until it is. As the eminent psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Frankl put it, all creatures seek meaning and purpose; the purpose of the wick is to be lit and the purpose of physical man is to be elevated and connected to a fiery, spiritual plane.


Short of that, no matter how accomplished a man may be in other areas he will not have achieved his purpose and meaning, and is then comparable to the candle sitting in the box waiting patiently for its turn to burn and shed light – light to illuminate its own earthly existence by giving itself absolute (vs. relative) meaning and to help others.

This point is especially stressed by the Chanukah lights, which portray the opposition of Jewish culture, which stresses spiritual meaning in existence, to Greek culture, which saw physical beauty and prowess as ends unto themselves.

This is particularly applicable to those in need of healing, those with a problem in their “wick.” They and those close to them should integrate this major element of Jewish thought into their lives. Once a patient recognizes the meaning of existence being defined in spiritual terms, he will more readily surmount the obstacles of ill health and develop the positive attitude that is so necessary for regaining health.

Chanukah lights stress the miracles that are wrought in this context: the oil (fuel) can often burn beyond its “norm”; the few (spiritual forces and energies) can overcome the many (physical obstacles); the forces of righteousness (spiritual morality) can overcome the forces of “evil” (physically-centered narcissistic existence).

These powerful ingredients are the “miracle” drugs that can pull even seriously ill patients back to a healthful, productive state.

Let’s go a step further. A nation that incorporates this attitude, acknowledging the importance of spiritual values alongside national security and material prosperity, becomes a national candle on the world arena.

This is precisely what the founders had in mind as they developed this new nation three hundred years ago on the foundations of liberty in its extended sense. They wanted the United States to become a true beacon of light for themselves and the world at large.

Winds of change crop up in all situations, but Divine Providence has kept this nation on course, pulling the various strings of government to make sure it indeed proceed in this direction.

The point is not necessarily to “make America great again” but to make sure it continues to be as great as we have come to expect of a superpower nation that proclaims “In God We Trust” and that will, with God’s help, overcome the world’s “supreme leaders” bent on sowing division and destruction.

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Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic is spiritual leader of Cong. Ahavath Zion of Maplewood, New Jersey. He can be reached at [email protected].