I close the door, turn off the lights, and run straight to my bed. Quickly, I climb up, and cocoon myself under the covers. I try to go to sleep, but I can’t. I am haunted by what I do not know, what I cannot properly understand.
Many nights in my childhood were like this, as they are for most children.
I was afraid of the dark.
It would terrify me. Even though it was still my room, the one I had lived in for years, with the lights off, I could have been anywhere, there were zero guarantees I simply did not know.
Over time, my fear began to subside, but for the wrong reasons. I wasn’t really less scared as much as I was expecting the scare. The consistency of my fear made it normal, and when my fear was normal, it wasn’t really all that terrifying. After all, watching a horror movie for the first time is much scarier than watching that same movie the tenth time. The movie hasn’t changed, the jump scares are still there, we just become accustomed to them. We change and the movie doesn’t.
Children are afraid of the dark, because of its ability to envelop and isolate them. When they cannot see, they do not understand, and of what they do not understand, they are afraid. I believe that this holds true for most people, not just children.
When we are young, our fear is of the darkness, but when we grow up, we fear being left in the dark.
During this time of the year, the nights are as long as they are cold. The Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, helps to brighten up the darkness that surrounds us. The light of the Hanukkah candles serves as a beacon even in the darkest of times today, just as it did so long ago.
Driving through my neighborhood on Hanukkah at night is one of the most beautiful things. The sight of all the hannukiot in the windowsills, with the candles burning ever so softly, is a symbol. It represents the resolve of the Jewish people.
As a teenager, this segment of my life is devoted to figuring out who I am. While on this long journey I quickly discovered that as much as I knew, there was even more that I did not. I was filled with questions that I could not answer, and that scared me. There were things that I just did not understand.
I felt as if I were being left in the dark, and I was afraid.
Kutz helped me to see the light during this time in my life. At Kutz, I learned all about my Jewish heritage.
I remember the countless hours I spent in the library, pouring over the wealth of knowledge left for me and my peers by those who came before us. I remember listening to some of the modern leaders of the Jewish people, and talking to them about issues that I could relate to, and found interesting. I remember not being afraid to ask questions. I will admit that even they didn’t always have the answer, but no matter the topic, the people there were always eager to discuss it with me, and help me to find my own answer.
While at Kutz, I learned about how late night comedy encourages us to be more politically active, and also participated in movement-oriented prayer. Two things that I find profoundly interesting, and two things I never really knew much about.
In my mind, that is what is so special about Kutz. They are grounded in the belief that people should never be left in the dark, and that everyone has the ability to illuminate their own lives.
It was the people like Melissa, and Josh, who saw a spark inside me, fostered that spark into a blazing flame, and taught me that I could light my own candle, and showed me how to illuminate the darkness.
We think of being afraid of the dark as something that is childish and immature, but in reality, we always hold on to that fear. Ultimately it changes shapes, but darkness it is nonetheless. There is much that we do not understand or do not know. Whether we like it or not, we are frequently left in the dark, and naturally, it scares us.
My fear of darkness has grown with me through my years and even haunts me even to this day. Thankfully, having lit my own candle, I now feel confident that no darkness, no matter how powerful can overshadow my flame
We read in Isaiah, “וּנְתַתִּ֙יךָ֙ לְא֣וֹר גּוֹיִ֔ם” “I will make you a light of nations.” (49:6) As Jews, it is our responsibility to embody and uphold this ancient blessing similarly to the way that Kutz does.
We cannot close our eyes and hide under the covers when the room gets dark. We cannot be afraid of what we do not understand. We cannot let our fear of darkness dictate how we live.
We must strive to comprehend. We must confront the unknown. And we must always, keep our inner candles burning.
This Hanukkah I pray that the light from our hannukiot rekindles the light within each and every one of us, for after all, we are a light of nations.
Micah Glickman, Kutz ’17 Torah Corps participant, is a member of Temple Beth Hillel, South Windsor, CT.