One who has faith in his heart and a candle in his hand does not experience the darkness
“He reached the place and spent the night there because the sun had set.” (Bereishis 28:11)
Darkness can be overwhelming. The symbolism inherent in darkness is debilitating — it evokes hopelessness; when there’s no hope, there’s no life. Hope is the candle that lights up the darkness. Sadly, too many of us are too busy cursing the darkness to seek out a candle to counteract the black. We are too intensely involved in complaining about the miserable hand that has been dealt to us to focus on the positive, to bring hope into our lives. (Rabbi A. L. Scheinbaum, Pninim al haTorah)
As a busy mother, sometimes I wish for some peace and quiet. But you gotta be careful what you wish for — when you get it, it may not be what you expected at all.
At the very beginning when Covid hit, I was directly exposed to someone sick. I needed to go into strict quarantine — alone, in my room, for 14 days.
Until then, I’d never fully understood the torture of solitary confinement. I was running my house via the phone; the kids would come to my window to ask me questions or to say hi. They left me food outside my door (Binyamin makes a great tuna melt), and slid notes and pictures under my door. I hoped they were doing okay. I wasn’t.
Yaakov Avinu had two seminal experiences at night: the famous dream of the ladder and wrestling with Eisav’s patron angel. In both cases he emerged a stronger, more resolute person. His emunah in Hashem carried him throughout the darkness of night, throughout the ordeal, lighting up his path. Yaakov symbolizes triumph over adversity. He was the patriarch who initiated Tefillas Maariv. He taught his descendants that, even in darkness, Hashem is with us and we must entreat His favor. Yaakov taught us that with emunah, we can light a candle and overcome the darkness. One who has faith in his heart and a candle in his hand does not experience the darkness.
Every day I tried to keep busy with a new project for that day. I organized photos, recipes, cleaned my closet for Pesach. (This almost a full year before the next Pesach! I beat everyone!) But as each day ticked by, the loneliness and solitude grew heavier and heavier. I felt like I was in a self-imposed prison and the walls were closing in faster and faster.
Still, I was grateful that I was healthy, and I tried to keep my spirits up by keeping things in perspective.
Our people are aptly called Bnei Yisrael, after the patriarch who taught us to light up the darkness. With emunah in Hashem, our vision becomes clear, allowing us to see through life’s ambiguities and adversities. This indomitable faith has carried us through the worst epochs of our tumultuous history.
One evening on Day 11, I was pacing my room, trying to figure out what to do with myself, trying hard not to feel sorry for myself, wishing like anything for the liveliness and noise and action of a regular evening with kids. Suddenly, the lights went out in the whole neighborhood.
I heard the kids screaming (mostly out of glee), heard my husband going to check up on the fuses, and just stood there enveloped in blackness alone — completely cut off. My cordless works on electricity, my cell phone was dead (I mean, why charge your phone when you’re not even going anywhere?), and I was completely isolated on my own in an island of blackness.
I’m not scared of the dark. But at that moment, something in me crashed. “Hashem!” I was almost whimpering, “I cannot be alone like this. I can’t take this anymore. I’ve been trying so hard to be upbeat, but this blackout is the last straw. I can’t be alone in the dark. Help me!”
I wish I would say that at that moment the lights came on. No, it took another half hour. But I sat there in my room with my eyes closed against the dark and kept talking with Hashem, and as I did so, I felt a beam of hope penetrate where no lights could reach.
And when the electricity finally did flicker on, I gazed around my room with gratitude. I can handle this for a few more days, I told myself. I’d learned to lighten up.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 767)
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