The world is filled with such heartbreak that at times it feels unbearable. The murderous attack by the Taliban that took the lives of 132 schoolchildren in Pakistan on Tuesday is utterly depraved. How bear the sight of body bags carrying these innocent children out of a school, a place for learning and friendship? What words can possibly be summoned that express our outrage and anguish at this unconscionable act of barbarity?
Two days earlier, on Sunday, I participated in a vigil for victims of gun violence in the United States. The vigil was held on the second anniversary of the attack by a madman at a school in Newtown, Connecticut. We offered prayers of remembrance. We spoke of the hope for a world where violence would cease. Later on Sunday night, I saw online photographs of the children who were murdered in Newtown. The faces of these little children were so innocent, so pure. I cannot imagine the grief their families still endure.
At times, it feels like our world is enveloped in darkness; especially in this season when days are short and nights lengthen. In these dark times we celebrate the festival of Chanukah. We light our Chanukah menorahs to banish despair and uplift our hearts. Each night when we add a candle to our menorah, we increase not only the light, but the hope that radiance will triumph over darkness; that good shall prevail; that holiness increases in the world when we add one flame to another.
Earlier this month, an incredibly brave young woman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala Yousafzai is a 17-year-old, raised in Pakistan, who boldly advocates for females to be educated and fearlessly criticizes the Taliban. At the age of 15, a Taliban assassin shot her three times and she almost died. Thankfully, she fully recovered and she has continued to speak out on behalf of those who are oppressed. She says, “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”
Let us be inspired by Malala’s extraordinary courage. Let us draw strength from the example of our Maccabee ancestors who fought for freedom against a far more powerful foe. Let us vow that we too will do our part so that wherever there is darkness and despair, we will bring light and hope into the world.