Rabbi Birnholz February 2021 Scroll article
In the middle weeks of January, I experienced/witnessed two paths of light.
One was a labyrinth of holiday lights. Located on the campus of the Center for Spiritual Care, I was challenged to walk this path slowly and deliberately, pacing my steps, meditating on my journey. These were steps of strength and patience. Going into the spiral, I had to slow myself down to take in the experience of moving from the outside inward. The return trip had quite a different focus. In the center was an olive oil lamp that I used to kindle a small candle. As I walked out of that labyrinth, I had to walk with care, realizing that each step generated enough wind to extinguish the candle. Walking in, I had such little resistance that I had to walk consciously to not just rush through taking time to feel my breath and gather my thoughts and prayers at each step. Walking out, I was witness to the power of my steps, their impact on the vulnerable flame in my hands.
Then just days later, I saw another pathway of lights. In the wake of a Day of Service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and ahead of the Inauguration, the Biden and Harris families gathered on the Mall in Washington, DC to witness an installation of 400 lights. Each light is a memorial to one thousand people who have died in the Covid19 pandemic in this country. While the Light Labyrinth looked so small and I had to challenge myself to walk slowly, the images of this Path of Light have the opposite affect on me. It is truly overwhelming and heartbreaking. There are not only too many lights to take in, but realize each one is one THOUSAND individuals dead! That is just in our country; in this last year. As painful as this is to try to comprehend, to hold in my heart and in my head, how can I not stop and feel the Kavod/weight of the losses of all of these lives?
In this year ahead, we must take time to witness light and kindle light, lights of hope and lights of memory. We are going to be challenged to slow down and feel the weight experience or to push our selves to keep moving, step by step, generating light and energy to move the world or ourselves forward. Like Moses seeing the flame of the Burning Bush, let us work to open our eyes to look for the light and open our hands to kindle and share the light. B’shalom, Rabbi Michael Birnholz
Beit Ya’akov l’chu v’nelcha b’or Adonaiבֵּית יַֽעֲקֹב לְכוּ וְנֵֽלְכָה בְּאוֹר ה’:
Come, family of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Eternal One. Isaiah 2:5
Or zarua latzadik, ul’yishrei lev simchaאוֹר זָרֻעַ לַצַּדִּיק וּלְיִשְׁרֵי־לֵב שִׂמְחָֽה:
Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart Psalm 97:11