Yom Kippur – Neilah — 5771

21/09/2010 at 20:47 Leave a comment

“The Everlasting, Living Candle”

YK — Neilah

18 September 2010

Neil F. Blumofe


There once was a Jew who went out into the world to seek justice. He looked in the streets and the markets of cities but could not find it. He traveled to villages and he explored distant fields and farms, but still justice eluded him. At last he came to an immense forest and he entered it, for he was certain that justice must exist somewhere. He wandered there for many years and he saw many things–the hovels of the poorest peasants, the hideaways of thieves, and the huts of witches in the darkest part of the forest. And he stopped in each of these, despite the danger, and sought clues. But no one was able to help him in his quest.

One day, just as dusk was falling, he arrived at a small clay hut that looked as if it were about to collapse. Now there was something strange about this hut, for many flickering flames could be seen through the window. The man who sought justice wondered greatly about this and knocked on the door. There was no answer. He pushed the door open and entered.

Before him was a small room crowded with many shelves. And on the shelves were a multitude of oil candles. Together their flames seemed to beat like wings, and the flickering light made him feel as if he were standing in the center of a quivering flame. He held up his hand, and it seemed to be surrounded with an aura, and all the candles were like a constellation of stars. Stepping closer, he saw that some of the flames burned with a very pure fire, while others were dull and still others were sputtering, about to go out. So too did he now notice that some of the wicks were in golden vessels, while others were in silver or marble ones, and many burned in simple vessels of clay or tin. These plain vessels had thin wicks, which burned quickly, while those made of gold or silver had wicks that lasted much longer. While he stood there, marveling at that forest of candles, an old man in a white robe came out of one of the corners and said: “Shalom Aleichem, my son, what are you looking for?” “Aleichem Shalom,” the man answered. “I have traveled everywhere searching for justice, but never have I seen anything like all these candles. Why are they burning?”

The old man spoke softly: “Know that these are soul-candles. Each candle is the soul of one of the living. As long as it burns, the person remains alive. But when the flame burns out, he departs from this life.”

Then the man who sought justice turned to the old man and asked: “Can I see the candle of my soul?”

The old man led him into a corner and showed him a line of tins on a low shelf. He pointed out a small, rusty one that had very little oil left. The wick was smoking and had tilted to one side. “This is your soul,” said the old man.

A great fear fell upon the man and he started to shiver.

Could it be that the end of his life was so near and he did not know it?

Then the man noticed that next to his tin there was another, filled with oil. Its wick was straight, burning with a clear, pure light.

“And this one, who does it belong to?” asked the man, trembling. “That is a secret,” answered the old man. “I only reveal each man’s candle to himself alone.”

Soon after that the old man vanished from sight, and the room seemed empty except for the candles burning on every shelf. While the man stood there, he saw a candle on another shelf sputter and go out. For a moment there was a wisp of smoke rising in the air, and then it was gone. One soul had just left the world.

The man’s eyes returned to his own tin. He saw that only a few drops of oil remained, and he knew that the flame would soon burn out. At that instant he saw the candle of his neighbor, burning brightly, the tin full of oil.

Suddenly an evil thought entered his mind. He looked around and saw that the old man had disappeared. He looked closely in the corner from which he had come, and then in the other corners, but there was no sign of him there. At that moment he reached out and took hold of the full tin and raised it above his own. But suddenly a strong hand gripped his arm, and the old man stood beside him.

“Is this the kind of justice you are seeking?” he asked. His grip was like iron, and the pain caused the man to close his eyes.

And when the fingers released him, he opened his eyes and saw that everything had disappeared: the old man, the cottage, the shelves, and all the candles. And the man stood alone in the forest and heard the trees whispering his fate.

Afghanistan: Oral Tradition

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Yom Kippur – Yizkor — 5771 Bereshit — 5771 — Look Forward Without Anger

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