In Psalms 34:18, it is written: “The lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
We are approaching the holy holiday of Chanukah, the holiday of lights. A time when the days are so short and the nights are so long. Nighttime can also resemble our troubles. In times of darkness Hashem reminds us that there is always light.
Chanukah is a time that we remember how the Maccabees fought to keep Judaism alive. Darkness can come in many forms–in sadness, hardship, pain, suffering, etc. How do we live out our days? Do we just go through the motions, day after day? Do we live out our days in stress and frustration at the lot we were given? Are we constantly looking over our shoulders to see what great fortune our neighbor was given? Do we see our blessings daily? Are we thankful for all we have, or are we bitter and cross at all we are still missing in our lives? There is a great difference between being sad and bitter to having a broken heart. Melancholy is a state of being when a person chooses to take the hardships in his or her life, and turn them into one big depression. Now, I’m not belittling a person’s harsh experiences in their lives. However, our great ancestors, such as king David, whose entire life was a long string of hardships, were definitely not in a depressed or melancholic state of mind.
King David took all his hard experiences and realized that it was all from Hashem, and therefore it was all good. He tried to always see what G-d’s message to him was. Our wonderful book of Psalms, recited by Jews all over the world, is David Hamelech’s greatest works. And it was all written out of his pain and his suffering. The question is: what is our approach in times of pain and frustration?
We can take our hard moments and turn them into a deep connection to the one above. We can take each opportunity of hardship and turn it into our special prayer to G-d. The Rebbe of Kotzk once said, ” There is nothing more whole than a broken heart.”
Chanukah begins on Sunday night. All the menorahs will be set in place, the oil will be ready to be poured into the glasses and the wicks will be ready to be lit. Yummy latkes will be served and the draidels will spin. Joy and happiness will fill the night as we sit with our families and remember all the great miracles that Hashem made for our ancestors so long ago.
However, there are many Jews who won’t celebrate Chanukah in this picturesque way. Some might be sick and some might not have family around. Some might be going through a rough time in life and not seize the moment to stop and see all the “light” around them.
A broken heart can be elevated to another level. Even the heart which is broken and in pain can still see Hashem in its life. Sadness just enhances the darkness and the disparity. In most situations, if not in all, there isn’t much we can do to take away the situation at hand. But the way in which we choose to react is entirely up to us. A brokenhearted and crushed soul is one that, despite their pain, they are not angry or bitter with the situation. Hashem is close to these people. A person who is in pain and a person who is bitter are not approachable. We try to steer clear of these people.
We are human and not angels, and pain is a part of our existence. Our job is to take that pain to another level of awareness within ourselves. Chanukah is a time of great light during the longest nights of the year. Whether we are lighting our candles together with our loved ones or in a dark cell in a prison, it is within our ability to let that light shine into our soul and light up all the broken areas inside and help us see whatever kind of life we have as a blessing.
May we be able to see through our broken vessels to the parts that are whole and functional. Through the lights of Chanukah we can light up any dark frustrating feelings that we might have. Let us strengthen our connection to G-d who is almighty, who saved the Maccabees from the great Greek Empire against all odds. When we are close to Hashem no matter what, then Hashem is close to us no matter what. Whether we are rich, poor, famous, of prominent rabbis or just a simple Jew. Chanukah is a time to remember the quality not the quantity, courage over power, belief over reality. Kindle the lights of the holiday with love and acceptance of whatever is going on in your lives, and you’ll feel G-d’s “presents” like never before. Happy Chanukah.