It went something like — well, exactly like — this post, below. As I re-read this, I realize that a lot of what I said about “what a year” last year had been for me was only more true this year. In some very good ways, and very not so good ways.
(For something a little more theological and a little less introspective, you can go to this Blawg Review’s predecessor, the 2008 Chanukah Blawg Review. If one crazy night of this is not enough for you.)
Welcome to Blawg Review. Cold, rainy, prematurely wintry greetings from metropolitan New York.
No exclamation point. It has been that kind of year, it seems. Nothing depressing about it, or it shouldn’t be. That’s just life, and in particular that’s the way life feels at that dreary moment when you’re living it clustered around the winter solstice.
And if I were perkily to emit that Chanukah, the festival of rededication, is “all about” pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps in the face of dread and gloom, for of course a little light will banish a great deal of darkness, I would not be the first to say it; and it’s not as if clichÃ© is too good for LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®.
But no. It is not going to be that kind of Chanukah Blawg Review this year. Let’s instead think a little less loftily, but maybe more fruitfully, about where we are. Where we’ve been since last Chanukah. And what we’re doing, blawgily speaking. And why.
Is there a Chanukah concept in that? Rabbi Avraham Chaim Feuer says there is — and it seems to be a very appropriate one for this moment, for this blog, even, and for the constellations of blawgs that still form and swirl around us:
Only recently — barely a hundred years have elapsed since the invention of the lightbulb — has Edison’s genius transformed [mankind’s formerly] bleak [benighted] situation. Today, mankind’s blindness is banished by billions of powerful and enduring bulbs. Artificial light has become so economically feasible that even the poorest can afford to squander it. Everything glows in the Age of Illumination. . . .
Centuries ago, prior to the Age of Illumination, people did not waste light. A fire with no function was promptly extinguished, and the fuel was carefully hoarded. If the flames of the menorah burned constantly without apparent function, it must have been that this was not light made to shed external illumination, but rather to symbolize the inner glory associated with Godliness.
For this reason, it is prohibited, according to Halacha, or Judaic Law, to use Chanukah candles as illumination for any ordinary activities. Such utility would strip the candles of their essential message — that there is more than one kind of light, that of the soul besides that of the eyes.
“The time for lighting the Chanukah candles is from sunset until the time that the traffic ceases in the marketplace,” states the Talmud (Shabbos 21b). As long as men are involved in the affairs of the marketplace, as long as they are engaged in the pursuit and purchase of all their eyes see and their hearts desire, then they are still in need of the lesson of the Chanukah menorah.
No doubt, our era is the age of the eye and the age of the market. This is self-evident and does not need further elaboration. When before in history has the consumer been flooded with such a staggering array of tempting products, wrapped in millions of dollars of “eye-catching” advertisement? When before has the human eye been so constantly exposed to the distracting sights of the stage, screen, and street? In the Age of Illumination, the outer lights have all but blotted out the inner lights.
It is time to gather around the . . . candles of the menorah, and give the inner lights the opportunity to convey their soft, subtle, penetrating message.
So, let’s sit down — come in out of the wet; can I get you a hot drink? No, no latkes, sorry — trying to stay away from the heavy stuff, since the operation. We do have these nice dreidel-shaped cookies… here. Say a brocha. Nice. Read More…