This week’s Parsha opens with the commandment to "kindle the menorah." It is this commandment coupled with a very pressing, serious, agonizing and ever present problem -- that of anti-Semitism that I would like to explore with you today. So you might ask, "What is the connection between these two concepts?"
On the one hand we have the Menorah -- the source of light. We are told that the windows of the Temples were constructed so that the inside of each window was narrow, fanning out to the outer wall, allowing for the light inside (that of the menorah) to spread out, illuminating the outside world. This is in contrast to how the windows of homes were once made, with the narrow side outside and the wide part inside, allowing the outside light to spread throughout the interior of the house.
On the other hand there is a seat of darkness, of evil, of hatred -- that of anti-Semitism. It is this evil that has plagued us as a people for centuries. This is not a new phenomenon. Recently this scourge has begun once again to take center stage. Current events in Europe particularly in France, Russia and throughout the world have again heightened our awareness and corrected our vision to be ever vigilant. Political pundits have tied the increase in anti-Semitism to the events in Israel, while others see ties to 9/11.
These are attempts to down play the scourge as simply knee-jerk reactions. However, the truth is that this disease has been ever present, and on going, and that certain situations only bring the issue into the spotlight. It has never really ever gone away.
We need to ask ourselves, quite seriously, how can we combat this evil, certainly we should not remain silent or passive. It is very praiseworthy and commendable and we should see to it that efforts in this direction continue with vitality and vigor: the various programs presented by numerous Jewish Federations and their associated agencies, individuals like Elie Wiesel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Anti-Defamation League, the Washington Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, and the scores of holocaust survivors who go about unceasingly to broadcast their message. Their message must continue to get through not only to us in the Jewish world but to the whole world -- lest we forget. The message of anti-Semitism is a message of hate.
But my friends, there is another vehicle that each individual can utilize to dispel darkness. It has been around since the times of our forefathers and matriarchs, and it is the kindling of the light.
This week’s Parsha calls out to us to kindle the menorah. For us today that kindling comes in the form of lighting the Shabbos and Yom Tov candles; the Chanukah menorah, and the yahrzeit light. All of these are clear and ever present tools -- not just symbols of light but light in fact. I ask that the next time you kindle a candle for one of these events you take a moment to pause and look upon the candles and see their warmth, their brilliance as they light up the area around them. You will be bringing the Almighty’s gift to the world, His Torah - His light -- His truth. Where there was a void you have brought light. The darkness is dispelled. Is it really that simple? I say to you -- yes, it is. You combat this evil of anti-Semitism every time you kindle the Shabbos and Yom Tov lights. You share with the world the Almighty’s gift -- His Torah.
We should note a very peculiar point in history. The most hotly contested piece of real estate in history is Israel, in particular Jerusalem. Every world power has looked to dominate it. Why? Because it is the center of the world, the center of holiness, the center of truth and yes, the center of light.
So, my friends, in these most critical of times, as you kindle the Shabbos or Yom Tov and Chanukah lights know that you combat the force of darkness - as you invite the light of Torah into the world. And know full well that as you light you are indeed dispelling the forces of evil that hide in the darkness for in light they will find no place to hide.