Chasing Light

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Dear Friends,
 
I traveled to London this week for a dear friend’s wedding.  He asked me to lead the tisch, a pre-wedding custom comprised of drinks, songs and stories.  We drank a nice 18-year-old single malt I found in duty free on the way over, romped on old Chassidic niggun with a beat-up guitar, and shared stories; he reminded me that the first time we met was by a spring in the wilderness of the Judean desert and we got naked to do mikvah together.  It was supposed to last forty-five minutes, but the coach was late and it stretched on for hours.  The groom is a best friend who hasn’t quite put in the hours to be one.  We’ve only known each other a couple of years, and shared no more than ten meals together.  But sometimes that’s just how it is.
 
I was thrilled to return home just in time to light candles with my family for the last night of Chanukah, which fell not far from the winter solstice the darkest day of the year, the daylight hours dwindling to a few bright moments enveloped by darkness encroaching from all sides. 
 
I awoke at 6am in London, and watched sunrise from the airport at 7am or so.  The flight took off my 10am and I settled into some mediocre movies.  At some point I looked to my left, slightly annoyed at the woman with her window ajar, the light streaming in.  I couldn’t see Wolverine.  The flight continued for hours, as did her open window, and the light.
 
At some point it hit me.  Flying west we chased the sun tracking still over the clouds.  It was the darkest day of the year, and I hadn’t seen this much light in months.  Now I turned to the light, and smiled at the woman, her window half upon, the light streaming in.  I landed at 2pm in New York, and it was still light.
 
I’m not quite sure what to make of the confluences of that day, but I can dream.  What we see is profoundly constrained by our perspective; to anyone in the northern hemisphere the light of the winter dwindles day by day until the solstice.  But from the perspective of the sun, the light remains constant, while some planet off in the distance wobbles a little closer or further away.  Whatever it is we’re seeing now, our experience is capable of radical reconfiguration, if we can glimpse a perspective far from our own. 
 
And to be in service of mystery.  The darkest day of the year is capable of granting abundance of light.  One jar of oil is capable of burning for eight nights.  We can never really know the spiritual potential contained in any of the substances or people we meet in our lives.   
 
Happy Chanukah!  Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year!  (Next Friday I’ll be chasing the sun back from Jerusalem.  I carry your prayers with me, and I’ll write in the New Year).
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Zach Fredman

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