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Hanukkah: Uncovering the Hidden Divine Light

Where are you finding, and uncovering, Or Ha-Ganu - the hidden divine light?
Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein is a faculty member at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and Executive Director of the Center for Rabbinic Innovation, OOI where she teaches Jewish clergy of all denominations. Previously, she was Executive Director of the 14th Street Y in Manhattan, Rabbi-Educator at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and Associate Director/Reform Zionist Think Tank Manager at ARZA. Shira has served at various Reform congregations, Jewish youth groups, and summer

It’s Kislev. The coming Shabbatot are the earliest in the year – they begin just after 4 pm. Literally, the darkest time of year.

The Torah begins with the creation of light, but the sun and moon were not created until the fourth day. Our sages explain this discrepancy by suggesting that the light that was created with the first utterance was not the light of the sun, but rather a bright light of goodness, which gave insight and vision to the first humans (Chagigah 12a-b). Yet, evil actions of subsequent generations obscured that light, and it became the Or Ha-Ganuz, the hidden light of creation — only briefly revealed in the world periodically, through shining acts of goodness. (Sefer Ha-Klalim 18)

So, as Shabbat approaches and I am drained of energy and hungry for light, I am searching for signs of that hidden light. I am starting by paying attention to the small flash there in the living room with my sleeping sons, sweetly sharing a pair of headphones on the air mattress our neighbor lent us, as the quickly delivered industrial fans dry a flood in their room. I choose to focus on the glimpse of light revealed in the hugs for our grieving member. I witness the flame-igniting sparks hidden in a moving poem of social protest, which my high school teacher friend taught today (and shared on social media.)

Here is what I know about these tiny sparks: sometimes they are easier to see when there is no other light outshining them.

In these next dark days until we illuminate the hanukkiah, I am asking us to please share the light: where are you finding, and uncovering, Or Ha-Ganuz, the hidden divine light?

Originally posted on the Wexner Foundation website

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