When you feel darkness, do this

When you feel darkness, do this

Rabbi, since October 7th, I can’t stop crying. I am glued to the news, watching and reading about all the horror stories that happened that day. I am angry, sad, and at night, I have difficulty falling asleep. I picture all of the young children who suffered so much, and I almost feel bad carrying on with my life. I would love to hear your thoughts.


Dear Hanna,

First, let me tell you that you are not alone. I have received so many phone calls and emails from people who feel the same way. To be honest, I sometimes struggle with it myself. After all, what happened on October 7 is unlike anything we had witnessed in our lifetime. I believe that Jews everywhere experience some level of trauma, and we all suffer from some form of PTSD.

Also, consider seeking the advice of a professional therapist who can help you process your feelings or suggest other therapeutics.

Finally, let me share with you something that I was thinking about this week:

When darkness fell, the candles called an all-hands-on-deck emergency meeting.

“Darkness is not acceptable!” declared one of the main speakers. She spoke at length about the danger that darkness poses to humans and many others.

As the meeting went on, news reports kept on coming in. More and more cities around the globe were now reporting darkness.

Candles stayed glued to their phones, following the news reports and feeling an increased sense of anxiety. They couldn’t fathom how the entire world tolerates this darkness and does nothing about it. They cried and shared their frustration.

One candle stood on the side, watching the entire event in bemusement. “Guys!” he called out. “What’s going on over here? You are candles!! All you need is to get some fire, light your wick, and the world will be brighter!”

I sometimes feel like the silly candles that are so busy worrying about the darkness and forgetting that they are candles with enormous potential to bring light to the world.

Whenever I feel like being dragged down by sadness and anxiety, I try to remind myself I am a candle. I have my little corner in the world, the corner where G-d has placed me and gave me a mission: illuminate it!

And you do, too. When you bring light to your corner, and I bring light to my corner, and others bring light to their corners, we create an immense light that will have a real impact.

We just ushered in the holiday of Chanukah, with the beautiful lights of the menorah. As a Jewish woman, you surely know about another famous candle-related mitzvah: the mitzvah of lighting the Shabbat and holiday candles.

But the menorah and the Shabbat candles are very different. First, the Shabbat candles are lit before sunset, when it’s still light outside. The menorah, on the other hand, is lit when it’s already dark. And while the number of Shabbat candles is consistent, we add one candle to the menorah each night.

Why the difference?

The rebbe explains that because the menorah is lit when it’s dark outside, we cannot be satisfied with a static number of candles. When it’s darker, it’s up to us to add more and more light.

I hope my answer helps, and I hope you will remember about your candle. So many people in your life are waiting for your light: your family, your friends, and the people you meet casually in the street. And there are so many ways you can shine your light: by helping others materially and spiritually. Sometimes, even one nice gesture can be life-changing.

Most importantly, we should shine our light even when we don’t feel like it. Because the light we shine on others comes back right at us and brings more light into our lives.

Mendy Kaminker is the rabbi of Chabad of Hackensack. He looks forward to your thoughts and comments at rabbi@ChabadHackensack.com

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