One More Light Essay Competition
My hands glide over my Shabbos light, looping lazily above it in wide circles that near the flame with a growing touch of anticipation. They edge closer, draw back, dance nearer still to the light, then masquerade in the shadows. Three times in a row, I weave through this pattern. And as I prepare to withdraw my hands, I cup them around the fire one last time, allowing it to illuminate my palms and reflect back off my fingernails. The candle beckons me silently to spill all my secrets.
My fingertips lightly touch my forehead, and my vision is hidden behind a veil of darkened quiet, scented with the wisps of smoke that emanate from the burnt out end of a matchstick. The thoughts that have been swirling in my mind settle down to wait their turn, and the lights dim in the symphony hall. Next thing I know, the Conductor enters, and the world is transformed entirely. It’s just me, Him, and the music we love together. This is our place to speak to one another. Every note flows with love.
I begin with my gratitudes, pouring out my soul in warm, steamy mugs of hot chocolate contentment sprinkled with marshmallows of special moments. As I let myself drift back into the smiles and kind words that have made this week special, just as every week inevitably becomes, I overflow with praise for Hashem. Ma rabu, and how beautiful it all is. May I be blessed with such a lovely week from Shabbos to Shabbos, every week of my life.
And yet, there is a melancholy tint to our heart-to-heart, so to speak. Other thoughts linger in my mind. It does not take long for the pebbles that drop into my serene pool of blessing to send ripples skipping out across the water. Within seconds, the entire surface is disturbed and in flux. I feel tears tug in my eyes as I think of the children who were murdered in France this week, and I can hear myself draw in a sharp breath as I let my thoughts tiptoe near to the Middle East, peeking over into the headlines with one eye squeezed firmly shut. See no evil, hear no evil. Kein ayin hora, pu pu pu. And yet. Who can avoid it? Hatred darkens our skies nearly daily; through the rainclouds, it becomes impossible to see the light we know is out there, signaling the arrival of Moshiach.
I part my fingers slightly and glance through them to the slivers of light shining in. Out the window, bold brushstrokes of pink and orange smear together into Divine art, and the world smiles shyly as the sun kisses the horizon, causing the clouds to blush. But I don’t watch this masterpiece long. Instead, I focus in on the blue and orange burning that is flickering before my eyes, and in it, I read Hashem’s promise to me. In this candle, Hashem responds.
In the deepest part of the candle, its blue core hides a sacred truth. All is in the hands of Heaven–all will be all right. There is a certain purity to the teardrop hidden inside the fire, the essence of how we relate to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. We believe in Him, we love Him fiercely, and we stand in awe before Him. This relationship Hashem treasures above all. It’s why he places it in the very heart of every Shabbos candle. And yet… there is more to it. Because there is no blue flame that is not engulfed in fire, no purity in this world that is not swallowed alive in deception. The angry edges of the flames reach wildly up to the sky, threatening to set the whole world on fire, feeding on the very oxygen in the air that allows us to breathe. They terrify, and they confuse, and they attempt to mask the soul of the flame inside.
But I watch my candle burning, and I see the message Hashem gifts me every single week. No matter how much the outer layer of the flame may fight, no matter how dangerously hot it tries to burn, and no matter how much wax it melts in its blazing light, it can never fully hide the truth. There is always a drop of blue in there, constant and cool. Lo ira ra, ki Atah imadi. Always. Forever. And every week I remember it anew.
I lower my hands slowly and turn to look at my mother, who stands there still, holding her whispered prayers in close to her fluttering eyelids. She davens passionately and desperately for every one of her children, and I ask Hashem for one last wish. I ask that when my mother is ready to look back at the candles, she sees that every one of her children will be safe and sound this week again. I hope she knows that with every wick she sparks for us, she rekindles our promise from Hashem. My mother and I, we light our candles, and because we do so, it is we who keep our family safe. Well, only because we always know that Hashem is not far behind us.
by Nora Yagolnitser, Age 17