This year, in addition to kindling the holiday lights, we light a yahrzeit candle to remember all that was lost this past year.

“A Light in the Darkness” by Rabbi Danny Burkeman. 

In the beginning, when there was just darkness, God declared, “Let there be light,” and there was light. In an instant the darkness disappeared, and that radiance spread throughout the world. God’s first act of creation was to bring light into the darkness, to illuminate the world. With this candle we follow God’s example, extinguishing the darkness and sharing the light. Over this past year we have lost so much. It has been a year in which we were forced to live apart from one another, maintaining a social distance to protect ourselves and those around us. It has been 12 months and we have missed so many moments—times of joy and sadness—when we could not gather together. For 365 days, we have woken up each morning with the threat of a pandemic hanging over our heads, fearing the news and saddened by the rising death toll.

Tonight, as we reflect on all that has been lost over this past year, we light this yahrzeit candle as a sign of our mourning and a commitment to the future. We light this candle and mourn for the moments that we missed: graduations that could not take place, vacations and summer camps we could not enjoy, lifecycle events that were unrecognizable. So many moments that were canceled, postponed or drastically different from what we had anticipated.

We light this candle and mourn for the everyday experiences that were lost: the meals we could not share, the hugs and embraces we could not give and receive, the moments of community and gathering that could not take place. We light this candle and mourn for all the lives that have been lost: the hundreds of thousands who have lost their lives to this dreadful disease, the countless front-line workers and caregivers who gave their lives so that others could live, all of those who have died in these last 12 months and for whom we could not mourn as we would have wanted.

But we also light this candle as a symbol of hope: despite the separation, we have found ways to come together; in the midst of suffering, we have cared for one another; in the shadow of death, we have found ways for life to continue. We take a moment now to name those moments and the people that we have lost, so we can remember. Share names of the people who have died and the moments that have been lost over this past year. Light the yahrzeit candle. With the candle lit, the light expels the darkness, and it joins with countless other candles being lit by our friends and family.

haggadah Section: Kadesh
Source: Rabbi Danny Burkeman