Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Rabbi Israel Salanter, the founder of the Mussar Movement, told the story that one night he was walking home past the house of a shoemaker. He noticed that, despite the late hour, the man was still hard at work by the light of a dying candle. He knocked and asked the shoemaker why he was still working? It is so late and soon the candle will go out. Replied the shoemaker: As long as the candle is still burning, it is still possible to accomplish and mend.

When we look around at our worldwide Jewish community, there is much to be pessimistic about – not just skyrocketing levels of anti-semitism and anti-Zionism, but also high levels of assimilation and intermarriage. We may be tempted to write off our brothers and sisters who have strayed. And yet, we have to be like that shoemaker. Even with the most disconnected Jew, even with just a flicker of the pintele Yid in so many of our fellow Jews, we all have the responsibility to reach out to even one person and reignite the sparks of Judaism.


As Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught us, a Jew can never despair. Instead, we can do so much even with small gestures to accomplish and mend. With Chanukah coming up, it’s a great time to invite someone not yet affiliated to share menorah lighting together with the blessings (invest in transliterated texts), sing together, and share some latkes.

May the flickering of the Chanukah lights inspire us to do our part and share not the “oys” of Judaism but the joys of Judaism, especially to those most in need of inspiration.


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Rabbanit Dr. Adena Berkowitz, a practicing therapist, is Scholar in Residence at Kol HaNeshamah NYC, Senior Educator at MJE and author of The Jewish Journey Haggadah.