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The best always-on solution

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All will agree that the number-one conversation topic at social gatherings through 2022 was which is the best always-on solution. We fiercely debated the advantages of diesel versus petrol generators. Proponents of electric inverters vehemently defended their recent purchases. Then there were those who wanted to be totally off grid and praised the virtues of solar.

But let’s start from the beginning. The very beginning, as in Genesis 1. “In the Beginning, G-d created heaven and earth. He said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light’… And G-d saw that the light was good.” In fact, says the Midrash, He decided that this first creation was too powerful, too intense, and too good, and hid it. He put it away for the righteous to enjoy in the world to come. The Midrash proceeds to disclose the hiding place by telling us that G-d concealed it in the Torah. So obscured it isn’t, since if we really want to access it, we know exactly where to go.

A couple of dozen chapters further, in the same book, we read of the candles of our matriarch, Sarah, which miraculously remained lit from Shabbat to Shabbat. When her recently bereft son, Isaac, saw the miracle recurring in the tent of his new wife, Rebecca, he knew that she, too, was worthy of being a mother in Israel. The candles, lit around the world every Friday night, perpetuate this light in Jewish homes long after the physical flame has dimmed.

It was Aaron the high priest’s duty and privilege to kindle the menorah in the Holy Tabernacle every night. These perpetual flames represented the light of Torah, which emanated from the sanctuary, illuminating the entire world with its teachings, values, and morals.

Dark times hovered over the Jewish people when the wicked Haman threatened extermination for all. When his evil decree was annulled, the Book of Esther describes the jubilation with the words, “The Jews had light,” a verse that now forms part of the weekly havdalah service. At the end of every Shabbat, we gather around a woven, torch-like candle to repeat that same phrase as we usher in the week ahead.

Antiochus tried to extinguish that light with the laws he passed, banning core Torah observance. His plan was to supplant our religious practices with what he deemed a superior culture. Hellenism worshipped the body over the spirit, the material over the physical. The ideology threatened to blow out that light which we had cherished for millennia. A small band of faithful did the unthinkable when they attacked an army far mightier and better equipped than them. Having regained control of the Holy Temple, they were able to rededicate it. Once again, the menorah could be lit, a symbol of the Torah that would outshine Greeks and subsequent enemies of this light.

Only pure oil, uncontaminated by Hellenism, would do for this demonstration of the victory of light over dark. Of that, as we know well, they could find only one small cruse, sufficient for one day. But the light shone on, for a full eight days, a demonstration that purity and holiness remains, always on, whatever the circumstances.

Year after year, we celebrate this festival of light. No stage of darkness can overpower it. For our candles of faith, our candles of hope, are more powerful than any threat we have ever met.

And soon, please G-d, very soon, He will remove the light from its hiding place. Then, the whole world will appreciate the value and values of this true light. Always on.

  • Rabbi Yossi Chaikin is the rabbi at Oxford Shul, and the chairperson of the SA Rabbinical Association.

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