Sometimes, it's so easy to get so caught up in all the darkness in the world (Sandy Hook; Syrian germ warfare; economic meltdown; yet another couple we know divorcing; yet another kid sick with something terrible…), that we forget that G-d already has a no-fail, easy, amazing solution to the problem of evil and nastiness: add more light.
As usual, I learnt this lesson in the most prosaic of ways. Last week, I finally got around to replacing a light bulb that had burnt out in my living room. We bought the energy-saving 'halogen' light bulbs when we moved in, without realizing that they are actually much dimmer than the regular ones we used to have. They were also hugely expensive, because they were meant to last for three years. So I waited for the three years to be up (because it's only my quality of life after 5pm that's being affected…) before replacing them.
The one in my living room went out about a month ago, and with everything else going on, I didn't get around to replacing it for a few weeks. Boy, was it dark. I brought down a lamp from upstairs, which helped a bit. But without that central light bulb, it was still dark and gloomy and hard to see.
A few days' ago, during the festival of light, I went to the hardware shop and bought a big new bulb - the highest wattage I could find. It was ginormous. The biggest lightbulb I'd ever seen in my life.
I popped it into the light fitting and - wow! What a difference! I could read! I could sew! I could see my husband and kids (amazing how much they'd grown in four weeks…) and stop tripping over the furniture. Amazing. The room looked so warm, and cosy, and inviting.
A couple of days' later, I was lighting the last of my Chanuka candles for 5773: Day Eight, the day of enormous light; an 'Etz Ratzon' or favourable time to ask G-d for everything we want and need; maximum illumination, in every sense of the word.
I was sitting outside on the pavement, watching the flames flickering around, and I suddenly realized that the answer to all the lunatics; all the mental illness; all the evil; all the cruelty; all the worry, fear and anxiety - was simply to add more light.
It only takes one small light to make the darkness disappear for metres or even miles around.
For months, probably years, I'd been obsessing over how to 'deal' with the darkness, spiritual and otherwise. Until last week, I'd been focussing on trying to 'fight the bad' or trying to 'make the bad go away' - which sounds like a plan, but really it isn't. Because the more you focus on the bad and the nasty and the horrible, the more strength and energy you give it; the more you worry and fret and rage and plot; the more you can forget that it's hard enough to try and change yourself, let alone to radically reshape other people, or 'society'; the more you get lost in 'fighting for truth' and 'fighting for justice', the less time and energy and opportunity you have to pursue your own growth, your own spiritual accounting, your own 'truths'.
But as I sat outside, with my cup of tea, gazing at the gorgeous dancing flames on the menorah, G-d sent me the profoundly simple, profoundly amazing answer that had been eluding me for ages: just add more light.
Once that light was uncovered, and that connection to our true spiritual selves and to Hashem was re-established, no-one would need to even think about getting away from the darkness any more. Because once you get used to living Hashem, in every sense of the word, that light shines out of you without you even trying.
Without you even trying, you bring G-d into the conversation; without even trying, you start working on yourself, you get honest about your difficulties and challenges, and you start motivating other people to grow, too. Without you even saying a word, all the heresy and the negativity and the arrogance and the evil in the world evaporates.
Each additional soul that gets lit up with G-d, and with emuna, and with Breslev, and with Torah can literally illuminate and enlighten their whole street; their whole neighbourhood; their whole town; their whole country…
I came in from those Chanuka candles in such a good mood. I took the information about 'how to spot people with 'Cluster B' personality orders' off the door; I resolved to stop obsessing over what people are trying to say about me, or what new ways they've dreamed up of trying to hurt and upset me; and I felt properly happy, maybe for the first time in my life.
Dear reader, do you know how much light you have in you? Do you know how much potential you have to build the world, and to encourage the people around you? Do you know how much your smile could help a friend? Or how much your hugs are warming the hearts of your children?
Every time you bring G-d into the conversation, and introduce Him to another one of His creations, do you know how happy you're making Him? How much darkness you're dispelling just by saying 'Thank G-d!' and really meaning it?
G-d needs every single one of us to work with Him, and dispel the darkness that seems to intensify with every day. That light - your light - could literally make all the difference between redemption the sweet way, without more suffering - and World War Three.
Your light could make all the difference to keeping families together, stopping people from jumping off bridges, and helping children to feel loved and cared for, instead of lost and abandoned.
Your light can illuminate your own life in such a profoundly amazing way, and chase away all that sadness, and depression and despair that you thought was a permanent fixture.
It's in you. It's definitely in you. Start listening to more Rabbi Brody CDs, or more Rav Arush lessons, and you'll detect the first glimmers. Start talking to G-d for an hour a day, and visit Uman, and just watch how quickly you get incandescent.
The world needs your light! Your family needs your light! G-d needs your light! And most importantly of all, YOU need your light.
May we all have the merit of having our souls switched on, and of discovering our inner light ASAP. Amen.
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Check out Rivka Levy's new book The Happy Workshop based on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush