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The Hillel-Shamai Debate on How to Deal with Your Inner Darkness

Don't Silence Your Children's Questions; Judaism Thrives on Questions

1 hr 26 min

Class Summary:

This class for women was presented on Chanukah 5777, December 2017, at Ohr Chaim, Monsey, NY.

Please leave your comment below!

  • N

    nina -7 years ago

    The fast is almost coming to an end. I just listened to the Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel- discussion on the lighting of the Chanuka candle. For many you are the candle and those that can listen and "hear" what you are trying to impart will have doors and potential open to them. May you truly be gebenscht.

    One word I would like to suggest- from my experience. Bais Hillel- could say mostly everyone can find it within them to light one candle- more than that- impossible.initially.

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  • AWFB

    A Women From Brooklyn -7 years ago

    I found your shiur to be as insightful as usual. You are very articulate and weave your shiur so masterfully, effortlessly and beautifully. Almost too beautiful, Rabbi Jacobson.

    Is light and dark as simple as lighting a candle, flicking a switch?

    Obviously, I am no stranger to inner darkness. Even more, I can personally attest to how easy it is to get consumed by ones darkness so much so, you go blind. I have been lucky enough to succumb to the darkness and for many years that darkness has clouded my perception. I know darkness all right. And I also know how a little light can abolish a lot of darkness. I searched for that elusive light for many years and in many ways, still do.

    That being said, I find it frustrating that as mystical and ethereal as the light may seem, nobody acknowledges or speaks about how that one little light can only burn for as long as it has enough oil to fuel its light. Is keeping the light going as simple as adding more fuel to the fire? Well, sometimes, for some people, i guess... Depending where that fuel comes from. But what if you don't have enough inner resources for fuel? While some ppl have an existential energy that can keep fueling the light with some efforts, there are ppl who have to outsource their fuel. The energy is not in them, but around them. Be it in meds, therapy or whatnot. Does that make it less worthwhile?
    Less altruistic? Less authentic?

    People need to know and hear that not always can darkness be dispelled from within. It took years of me battling depression for me to finally 'succumb' to 'happy pills' which allowed for the light to ignite. Do you know how many years I have blamed myself for not 'seeing' the light? For not having enough emunah, for not being grateful enough... I didn't want to analyze myself to death. I wanted to live and climb out of the darkness. But I was paralyzed and frustrated at my incompetence. Even now when it's crystal clear to me that my meds are absolutely vital to my mental health, I judge myself harshly for not finding the light intuitively, naturally.. But now now, that would be so unfair to my personal journey, wouldn't it?

    My truth is not your truth, as you said so poignantly... Two contradicting truths are not mutually exclusive. Both truths are true for the individuals that it speaks to. So what if we find our lights through different sources. A light is a light, right?

    Yet what if there is a third truth. The one who is actually wholly blind? The one who no amount of light can help dispel the darkness, for he is destined to never see. Is he doomed? Should he be faulted for his darkness?

    Allow me to elaborate please. (And forgive me for going on so long... I did just listen to a brilliant shiur that has my brain muscles contracting convulsively...)

    A couple of months ago I went to Eretz Yisroel. While there, i visited the Blind Museum. Simply explained it's a museum that is entirely pitch black. You hobble your way through many different rooms with a walking cane and slowly you learn to rely on all your senses to direct you. There's the rocking boat, the smell of seawater, the stumble of a lurking step.

    It was terrifying, to say the least. I felt acutely more vulnerable and insecure than I ever felt in my life. We were a group of six frantic strangers and one guru guide (who was actually really blind) and the darkness. The only thing I knew about anyone in the room, were their voices - zeh hu.

    Consistently, throughout the tour, I subconsciously learned to drown out the strangers voices around me and train my ears to listen for the one voice I instinctively trusted to guide me to safety - namely, that of our blind tour guide.

    I allowed his voice to guide me to the 'shuk' a room with a wide array of smells assaulting my senses in a sensual tsunami. He had us all 'shop' items from the baskets... I remember picking up this wrinkled, rubbery ball and smelling its citrus waft before determining I held an orange in my hand. To be honest, I also picked up something slimy and mushy but didn't have the guts to smell it's identity.

    Nothing though could have prepared me for the for the 'music' room. It was an empty room - I know that because of the echo I heard - and we all sat on the floor doing nothing - just listening to beautiful Bach and Mozart compositions. It was perhaps one of the most visceral experiences I have ever had. I could feel the music in my bones, the vibrations in the floor! Yes, really. But I digress...
    The last room (the point I'm finally aiming for....) was the 'cafe'... We ordered snacks, made our way to a table, groped our way around chairs and finally settled in for what was to be a fascinating chance to ask our authentically blind guide everything we ever wanted to know about being blind.
    For the first time since I entered the museum I felt comfortable in the darkness. I was grounded in my own space - I had this. Or so I thought.

    It was quiet and all you heard was the ruffling of snacks being opened when the guide turned his attention to me and asked out loud, "Julie, why aren't you relaxing? Sit back fully, settle into your chair - make yourself comfortable..."
    I was flabbergasted to say the least. The room was pitch black and even I didn't realize I was sitting uptight and upright!

    "How do you know how I am sitting!" I blurted out.. You can't even see me!"
    He didn't even pause to respond.
    Simply, authentically, he said something I will never forget, "I don't have to see you to feel your anxiety, Julie."

    I was blown away.

    Flummoxed, I told him, "For a blind person you sure 'see' a heck lot more than most 'seeing' people do."

    The rest of the hour was spent in fascinating exchange. He told his life story, his accomplishments, his trials. I was mesmerized by this guide. He was so brilliant, so intuitive, so inspiring. He 'saw' me.

    And then the lights went on and I got to 'see' him.

    Rabbi, I'm ashamed to admit this but I recoiled in shock. His eyes were half mast, fluttering jarringly. His gait was uneven, his teeth buck, stained and crooked. Frankly, I just stared. Horrified.
    I couldn't reconcile the wise, trustworthy, and insightful guide with this bumbling physical mess. My eyes saw, my brain knew, yet they couldn't mesh it all together.

    I was horrified.

    How was I so erringly human, so grossly judgmental? How was it possible that the two realities wouldn't correlate? Which one was true - was it light? Was it darkness?

    And it was on that day that I learned a truth I will always cherish. Both are true. Everyone knows we need the light but far too few people know that sometimes we need the darkness to 'see' the light. Light doesn't alter our reality - it just clears our vision. But who's to say it's not the darkness that connects us to our reality. It's the darkness that allows us to let our guard down, be real. Connect with our true selves.
    And truly, one has to feel the darkness to appreciate the light and the clarity it brings.

    I think I may have lost my way a bit in this ramble but what I'm really trying to say is this; yes Chanukah celebrates the light, but truly it's the inner darkness that allows for its celebration. For were there no darkness how how would the light even be significant? And sometimes, experiencing our inner darkness can actually be vital to our growth. And yes you did mention that in your shiur.... but what more people need to know is that not finding the light may not always be your fault. It's okay to need help igniting the light and it's okay if it takes you more effort to keep that light going. We all have our individual tafkid to accomplish and our own truths to live by!

    If you are reading this through the end, I just want to say thank you for listening to my gibberish. I am honored.

    A freilichen Chanukah to you, your family and all of klal yisroel!

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • ABW

    A Brooklyn Woman -7 years ago

    Rabbi, I found your shiur to be as insightful as usual. You are very articulate and weave your shiur so masterfully, effortlessly and beautifully. Almost too beautiful..

    Is light and dark as simple as lighting a candle, flicking a switch?

    I am no stranger to inner darkness. Even more, I can personally attest to how easy it is to get consumed by ones darkness, so much so, you go blind. I have been lucky enough to succumb to the darkness and for many years that darkness has clouded my perception. I know darkness all right. And I also know how a little light can abolish a lot of darkness. I searched for that elusive light for many years and in many ways, still do.

    That being said, I find it frustrating that as mystical and ethereal as the light may seem, nobody acknowledges or speaks about how that one little light can only burn for as long as it has enough oil to fuel its light. Is keeping the light going as simple as adding more fuel to the fire? Well, sometimes, for some people, i guess... Depending where that fuel comes from. But what if you don't have enough inner resources for fuel? While some ppl have an existential energy that can keep fueling the light with some efforts, there are ppl who have to outsource their fuel. The energy is not in them, but around them. Be it in meds, therapy or whatnot. Does that make it less worthwhile?
    Less altruistic? Less authentic?

    People need to know and hear that not always can darkness be dispelled from within. It took years of me battling depression to finally 'succumb' to 'happy pills' which allowed for the light to ignite. Do you know how many years I have blamed myself for not 'seeing' the light? For not having enough emunah, for not being grateful enough... I didn't want to analyze myself to death. I wanted to live and climb out of the darkness. But I was paralyzed and frustrated at my incompetence. Even now when it's crystal clear to me that my meds are absolutely vital to my mental health, I judge myself harshly for not finding the light intuitively, naturally.. But now now, that would be so unfair to my personal journey, wouldn't it?

    My truth is not your truth, as you said so poignantly... Two contradicting truths are not mutually exclusive. Both truths are true for the individuals that it speaks to. So what if we find our lights through different sources. A light is a light, right?

    Yet what if there is a third truth. The one who is actually wholly blind? The one who no amount of light can help dispel the darkness, for he is destined to never see. Is he doomed? Should he be faulted for his darkness?

    Allow me to elaborate please. (And forgive me for going on so long... I did just listen to a brilliant shiur that has my brain muscles contracting convulsively...)

    A couple of months ago I went to Eretz Yisroel. While there, i visited the Blind Museum. Simply explained it's a museum that is entirely pitch black. You hobble your way through many different rooms with a walking cane and slowly you learn to rely on all your senses to direct you. There's the rocking boat, the smell of seawater, the stumble of a lurking step.

    It was terrifying, to say the least. I felt acutely more vulnerable and insecure than I ever felt in my life. We were a group of six frantic strangers and one guru guide (who was actually really blind) and the darkness. The only thing I knew about anyone in the room, were their voices - zeh hu.

    Consistently, throughout the tour, I subconsciously learned to drown out the strangers voices around me and train my ears to listen for the one voice I instinctively trusted to guide me to safety - namely, that of our blind tour guide.

    I allowed his voice to guide me to the 'shuk' a room with a wide array of smells assaulting my senses in a sensual tsunami. He had us all 'shop' items from the baskets... I remember picking up this wrinkled, rubbery ball and smelling its citrus waft before determining I held an orange in my hand. To be honest, I also picked up something slimy and mushy but didn't have the guts to smell it's identity.

    Nothing though could have prepared me for the for the 'music' room. It was an empty room - I know that because of the echo I heard - and we all sat on the floor doing nothing - just listening to beautiful Bach and Mozart compositions. It was perhaps one of the most visceral experiences I have ever had. I could feel the music in my bones, the vibrations in the floor! Yes, really. But I digress...
    The last room (the point I'm finally aiming for....) was the 'cafe'... We ordered snacks, made our way to a table, groped our way around chairs and finally settled in for what was to be a fascinating chance to ask our authentically blind guide everything we ever wanted to know about being blind.
    For the first time since I entered the museum I felt comfortable in the darkness. I was grounded in my own space - I had this. Or so I thought.

    It was quiet and all you heard was the ruffling of snacks being opened when the guide turned his attention to me and asked out loud, "X, why aren't you relaxing? Sit back fully, settle into your chair - make yourself comfortable..."
    I was flabbergasted to say the least. The room was pitch black and even I didn't realize I was sitting uptight and upright!

    "How do you know how I am sitting!" I blurted out.. You can't even see me!"
    He didn't even pause to respond.
    Simply, authentically, he said something I will never forget, "I don't have to see you to feel your anxiety, X."

    I was blown away.

    Flummoxed, I told him, "For a blind person you sure 'see' a heck lot more than most 'seeing' people do."

    The rest of the hour was spent in fascinating exchange. He told his life story, his accomplishments, his trials. I was mesmerized by this guide. He was so brilliant, so intuitive, so inspiring. He 'saw' me.

    And then the lights went on and I got to 'see' him.

    Rabbi, I'm ashamed to admit this but I recoiled in shock. His eyes were half mast, fluttering jarringly. His gait was uneven, his teeth buck, stained and crooked. Frankly, I just stared. Horrified.
    I couldn't reconcile the wise, trustworthy, and insightful guide with this bumbling physical mess. My eyes saw, my brain knew, yet they couldn't mesh it all together.

    I was horrified.

    How was I so erringly human, so grossly judgmental? How was it possible that the two realities wouldn't correlate? Which one was true - was it light? Was it darkness?

    And it was on that day that I learned a truth I will always cherish. Both are true. Everyone knows we need the light but far too few people know that sometimes we need the darkness to 'see' the light. Light doesn't alter our reality - it just clears our vision. But who's to say it's not the darkness that connects us to our reality. It's the darkness that allows us to let our guard down, be real. Connect with our true selves.
    And truly, one has to feel the darkness to appreciate the light and the clarity it brings.

    I think I may have lost my way a bit in this ramble but what I'm really trying to say is this; yes Chanukah celebrates the light, but truly it's the inner darkness that allows for its celebration. For were there no darkness how how would the light even be significant? And sometimes, experiencing our inner darkness can actually be vital to our growth. And yes you did mention that in your shiur.... but what more people need to know is that not finding the light may not always be your fault. It's okay to need help igniting the light and it's okay if it takes you more effort to keep that light going. We all have our individual tafkid to accomplish and our own truths to live by!

    If you are reading this through the end, I just want to say thank you for listening to my gibberish. I am honored.

    A freilichen Chanukah to you, your family and all of klal yisroel! I

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

Chanukah Women's Class

Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • December 28, 2016
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  • 28 Kislev 5777
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