If there is one thing I have learned from our long, dark nights up here it is that it does no good to dwell on the darkness. The more you focus on how short the sun is up here in winter and the more you restrict yourself in what you do while it is dark, the longer and harder the winter will be. The best way to deal with the darkness is to not hide from it or curse it, but to simply put on some lights. Alaskans decorate trees with lights all winter long and those who handle the winters best go out and are active outdoors whether the sun is out or not. We bundle up and bring some light to the long night.
It’s definitely a good life lesson.
Whenever you find yourself in darkness, whether it’s a lack of spiritual inspiration or a sadness brought about by the world around you, rather than dwell on the darkness, I find that focusing on how I can create more light is a quicker way to feel better. With this in mind, yesterday and today, I sat and thought about what I could do in my own community to create a little more light for myself and my fellow (hopefully soon to be!) Jews.
One of my great passions is reading. I love everything about books, from the feel of the paper in my fingertips to the smell of an older book that’s been on the shelf a while. This is another area in which I found Judaism a perfect fit without any adjustment since Jews highly value books, to the point where there are customs on how you treat holy books with particular care and reverence. The first time I saw Mr. Safek gently kiss his Siddur after praying and carefully put it back on a shelf, I knew that there was something about this people that was already a part of me. In our family, we have more books than really anything else and receiving new books is always an event.
Our small Synagogue also has a library, mostly of books that people have donated over the years. Unfortunately, most of those books go unread because there is no good system for checking them in and out and when they were lent out, they would sometimes not find their way back to the shelves. After the Rabbis commented on the state of the library a couple of times in passing, I wondered if this was something I could help with. Yesterday, I began researching systems to organize the library and lend the books out.
A quick search revealed that most of the software available was for much bigger libraries and far too expensive for the budget of a small Chabad house on the outskirts of civilization. So, I brought my ideas to my coworkers, who are creative and also love solving problems. Together, we found a solution that would be free, easy to put together, and virtually maintenance free! I sent my email with links to the test application I’d set up to the Rabbis and as I clicked send, I realized that I already felt better, even if they preferred to use something else. I had lit at least a small candle in my world.
How wonderful it would be to help other people find the books they need to learn more about Judaism, as I have, to help them find a book that inspires or comforts them just a little. To me, that’s my best response to the rise of anti-semitism I see…to help light more candles where I can and help other Jews to light their candles as well.
Darkness is not stronger than light and the winter always gives way to spring, but winter does come and it’s important to prepare for it and find ways to make some light and warmth in the cold. May we all find our candles before it becomes any darker and help each other to light!