I remember when Bayla was first born and the sleepless nights that followed. People kept saying that once she started sleeping through the night, things would get easier and more routine. Well, in some sense they were right and sleeping more than 3 hours a night certainly has done wonders for my attention span and patience level; but things getting easier, that I’m not so sure of. The day time hours are spent answering questions, pointing out life lessons, reinforcing routines, watching out for safety risks, and a perpetually never ending game of “but why?”
Ever try and teach something specific to a three year old that they are not particularly keen on learning? It is interesting to say the least. You can throw in an incentive such as jelly beans, stickers, and other sorts of positive reinforcement which can really help. However, at the end of the day it isn’t until they can identify with whatever it is that they are learning within themselves that it truly becomes a part of them.
The truth is that it is like that for adults as well. If we are asked to do something that we don’t really want to do, or don’t really understand, we are less committed to it; less determined. But when there is something that we feel passionate about, that we really feel connected to, we are filled with energy and motivation.
Over the last few months we have been prepping Bayla that she would soon be lighting her own special candle for Shabbos. Being that Bayla’s understanding of the days of the week is limited (and everyday has the potential to be Thursday) she has been asking every day if, “tomorrow I’m going to light my special candle?” The time finally came this past Shabbos and she was filled with joy as she lit her candle, covered her eyes, and said the bracha. One of the reasons she was so excited about lighting a Shabbos candle is that it makes her feel like a big girl; like she is part of something really great. And she’s right, she is part of something truly wonderful; she is a part of G-d.
This week’s Torah portion, Parshas Acharei-Kedoshim begins with Hashem telling the Jewish people, “You shall be holy, for I, the L‑rd your G‑d, am holy.” The parsha then goes on to elucidate several mitzvahs through which a Jew sanctifies himself. While these are mitzvahs which specifically relate to the holiness of G-d, really every single mitzvah, big and small, involve holiness. Every mitzvah that we do brings light into the world. Yes, there are mitzvahs that are exciting and we feel particularly drawn to; but every mitzvah, even the ones that seem tedious or that we may less than thrilled about are holy actions which bring joy to Hashem and uplift the sparks of holiness in the world. Our goal then, is to find the light in each and every one of them.
Every Jew has the potential to be a candle; a producer of light and dispeller of darkness. One of the greatest assets of a candle is not only the light that it gives off, but the ability to light others and let them shine.
So, dear daughter, my sweet little (I mean big) girl: I wish you a Happy Birthday! Be excited for the mitzvahs you love, the ones you already know, the ones you are soon to learn. May you always light your special Shabbos candle with pride, enthusiasm, and zest, and continue to illuminate your family, community, and all of Klal Yisrael. Because without you; the world just wouldn’t be as bright!
Wishing you and yours a wonderful Shabbos,
Rabbi Nuta Yisrael Shurack