There was a time in my life, not too long ago where all the light had gone out. I was lost and grasping in the dark trying to find something, anything to hold on to. The lines between reality and mental illness blurred. I had people around me but I could not let them in. I was afraid that the darkness contained within me would escape into their lives and somehow take over them too. So I kept it all in, I swallowed it all and prayed that if I kept quiet, none would escape. In America, and perhaps other countries, there is this belief that we have to be entirely self-sufficient. That relying on others is a sign of weakness and shame. If we hit bad times, we are to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and keep going. This is a dangerous mentality because the world does not work like this. Sometimes life throws you curve balls and then they keep coming. No matter how hard you try, you cannot get them to stop. 

As I looked at the Chanukah candles today, I reflected on the light they give off. I thought about how much I crave light even now. In these darkest of days when I find myself feeling that darkness rising all around me, I wish I could absorb the light straight to my soul. I need the light like I need the air I breathe. My need for light does not just happen when I light the candles, it is a need that is always present. I think that in the presence of the light from the candles is when I most sense the darkness around me. My Hebrew name is Orah Hadassah. I have often reflected on how my Hebrew name involves light and yet often I feel like that is what I am lacking. Gentle reminders from my rabbi lets me know that while I feel a lack, I have not lost the very light I am named for.

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I have been trying to be mindful of seeking light in my life. I look for opportunities to find light. I have learned that we cannot see the light if our eyes are closed. Often in trying to be able to do everything on my own, I close my eyes to others so that they do not see the depth of need in my eyes. But when I shut out others, I also shut out their light from reaching me. In those moments, I am letting my pride and stubbornness keep me from the very thing I need. That is the true shame.When I think of Judaism, I do not think of Jewish guilt like many do, I do not instantly think of all the rituals or of the language involved; I think of people. I think of kindness and charity. I think of love and support. Most of all, I think of light. I think of the light that has been introduced in my life by others. I think of how people have shared their lives and homes with me. Meals that I have eaten with them, blessings I have said alongside them. I think of how people have been there during the rough patches in my life.


I think of the unwavering support extended to me from the Temple David community. That support which does not judge me for falling short or judge me for the genetic flaws that lead me down a rabbit hole. Instead, people shared their light with me. Much like how we use a shamash to light the other lights on the menorah, they shared their light when I had none. My rabbi spoke on how we as community are each that shamash candle and I could not agree more. We are each a light, even if we do not recognize it ourselves. In community, we have the opportunity to let our lights be refueled and encouraged by others. I am so thankful because that is what my community is. A group of people who do not waiver in giving their light to those around them. I am so blessed by my community. I am blessed that even when I have nothing to give and am empty handed, I am always welcomed. There is always a place for me with them. 

They inspire me to live up to the light of my name. That as much as they have shared their light, I can also share the light within me. Even if all I have left is a spark of light that is flickering, it is still a light and not something to take for granted. I know what it is like to walk around just breathing, all light gone out from inside. I do not want to go back to those times. I want to nourish the spark within me until it grows and can help others. This Chanukah, I might not feel like I have a lot of light to give, but when I am with my community, I feel the light within me grow. I am making it a commitment to be more open to others. To not be afraid to share the good and the bad. I will trust the light within them. I will not be ashamed of the size or strength of my light either. I will no longer hide my face from theirs. I will work on being more open. I will not lock the spark of light within me deep inside, I will throw open the doors and take the risk of letting others in.
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