Sunday, 29 December 2019

‘If the sun would lose its light
And we lived an endless night’

A Hanukkah Menorah in a shopfront in Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Tonight is the eighth and last night of Hanukkah, the Jewish eight-day ‘Festival of Lights,’ which ends tomorrow [Monday 30 December 2019].

Over the past eight nights, Hanukkah has been celebrated with lighting the menorah lights each night.

The Hanukkah Menorah holds nine flames, one of which is the shamash (‘attendant’) and is used to kindle the other eight lights. On the first night, just one flame is lit; on the second night, an additional flame is lit; and tonight, the eighth night of Hanukkah, all eight lights are kindled.

Last night’s attack in Monsey has drawn attention to the dramatic rise in the number of anti-Semitic attacks in the New York and New Jersey areas in the past week, coinciding with the week of Hanukkah.

The rise in racism has not only been stoked by has been encouraged by the attitudes and policies of President Trump, who has stoked intolerance during his time in the White House. Although Ivanka Trump has tweeted, it is telling that almost 24 hours after this latest attack, Donald Trump has not yet commented or tweeted on these attacks in Monsey.

Hanukkah is a reminder to never be afraid to stand up for what is right, to speak out against oppression and to speak up for religious and political rights and freedoms.

Hanukkah is a reminder that the light of God always shines, even in the darkest of times.

And Hanukkah is a reminder that a little light goes a long way. The Hanukkah candles are lit when dusk is falling. Perched in the doorway or in the front window, they serve as a beacon for the darkening streets. No matter how dark it is outside, a candle of Godly goodness can transform the darkness itself into light.

A Hanukkah Menorah in a shopfront in Murano in Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

In his later songs and poetry, Leonard Cohen wrote about the darkness of life and the light of God. I was listening to his album You want it darker on the road from Rathkeale to Dublin this afternoon, and thought his song If I didn’t have your love is about the love and light of God, and is appropriate as Hanukkah comes to a close at the end of this year:

If the sun would lose its light
And we lived an endless night
And there was nothing left
That you could feel
That’s how it would be
My life would seem to me
If I didn’t have your love
To make it real

If the stars were all unpinned
And a cold and bitter wind
Swallowed up the world
Without a trace
Oh well that’s where I would be
What my life would seem to me
If I couldn’t lift the veil
And see your face

If no leaves were on the tree
And no water in the sea
And the break of day
Had nothing to reveal
That’s how broken I would be
What my life would seem to me
If I didn’t have your love
To make it real

If the sun would lose its light
And we lived in endless night
And there was nothing left
That you could feel
If the sea were sand alone
And the flowers made of stone
And no one that you hurt
Could ever heal
That’s how broken I would be
What my life would seem to me
If I didn’t have your love
To make it real



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