Learning To Take a ‘Soulfie’ at Hanukkah
What would Hanukkah be without the burning candles reminding us of God’s miracles in the time of the Maccabees and in our own days? But the candles we kindle on the holiday—which begins the evening of December 12—can also teach us about the miracle shining within each of us. As Proverbs 20:27 reminds us: “God’s candle is the human soul.” We are carrying God’s light within us. It burns like a pilot light, always available to help us and guide us. It’s our responsibility to honor and tend that light, to keep sharing it and spreading it.
These days, at every family celebration and on every vacation, we’ve grown accustomed to taking selfies to help us remember special moments in our lives. We may call the picture that we snap of ourselves a selfie, but it doesn’t capture the self at all. It doesn’t take in our interior world. It can’t capture our minds, our souls, our longings, our feelings, our prayers. A selfie is all surface.
A selfie, in which we’re always disproportionately large and the background vista looks like a tiny speck, is also a distortion of reality. The truth is, we’re a tiny speck in the face of a vast, magnificent expanse.
I believe that every day, God asks us to do something we generally resist doing—to look deep inside our own souls and make an honest accounting of where we are and where we are going: Where am I needed? Have I strayed from the path of my life? Have I become self-
satisfied? Have I stopped learning and growing and changing?
These are big, heavy questions—and we’re all tempted to look away. But our challenge in life is to learn how to take a “soulfie.” What’s a soulfie? It’s our daily attempt to meet our souls. It’s our desire to cut through the surface distractions to get to know our own true essence. Taking a soulfie is a way to get to know our soul’s contours, its yearnings and longings, its knowledge and its wisdom.
The rabbis tell us the soul is a mirror of God within us. The soul is the god of the body. God is the soul of the world. The soul is calling to us, just as God is calling, but listening is not always easy. We can learn to uncover and tap into God’s very image. All we need to do is locate the treasure buried inside.
Hanukkah is the perfect time to learn how to take a soulfie. Here are four questions that can help guide you in taking your own soulfie as you kindle your Hanukkah lights:
What has my soul been trying to say to me that I’ve been ignoring?
What activities and experiences nourish my soul that I don’t do enough of?
What does my soul want to repair that my ego is too stubborn or too fearful to repair?
What does my soul want me to reach for?
The answers to these questions will deepen and enrich our lives. If we can learn to take a soulfie, it may well transform our lives. By making a decision to access and follow our souls, we begin a journey. It is a winding journey full of bumps and stops and starts. Life’s paths are anything but straight. And yet those winding paths, as frustrating as they may be, can lead us to a life of meaning and blessings.
This Hanukkah, I pray you will choose to follow your soul on its journey. May it lead you to paths of peace. Amen.
Rabbi Naomi Levy is the founder of Nashuva, a Jewish spiritual outreach movement based in Los Angeles, and the author of the recently published Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul (Flatiron Books), from which this essay is adapted.