At Lag B’Omer, fanning our sparks to make a bonfire

Lag B'Omer bonfires, like this one in Kfar Saba, Israel in 2005, fire up the imagination in children. (David Malouf)

Lag B’Omer bonfires, like this one in Kfar Saba, Israel in 2005, fire up the imagination in children. (David Malouf)

HOLIDAY FEATURE

TEL AVIV (JTA) — As Lag B’Omer approaches, children excitedly collect planks of wood in anticipation of the big bonfire. There’s a spark in their eyes lit by the power of fantasy and imagination. The nighttime ceremony — on May 11 this year — holds a special meaning for them, and just thinking about the annual rite awakens a yearning to feel something new, an experience they’ve never had before.

Why can’t we adults share that same sparkle in our eyes? Why aren’t we as excited in anticipation of the magical night lit by bonfires? Instead, our focus revolves around the plummeting stock market, the lost savings and the overly expensive mortgage.

Why is it that at some point in life, we turn down our inner fire and lose our childlike wonder and curiosity, trading it in for the drudging daily routine and worries that never seem to end?

No one can seriously expect to live in a child’s fantasy dream world forever, since we have real, adult problems to deal with every day: work, the bills, the dishes, the laundry, and so on, not to mention the global financial crisis that is constantly looming in the background.

On the other hand, just because we’re older and more mature, does it really mean that we must settle for a life of endless problems and responsibilities? Don’t we also deserve greater types of adventure and excitement?

We certainly do! And as our children so clearly show us, the way to staying energized, full of wonder and curiosity about life does not begin or end with anything we have or do on the outside. It all depends on our inner outlook and perspective.

Just think: How does a child turn a regular bonfire into a grand, magical and mysterious celebration? By supplying his own inner content, his inner longings and desires. It’s the same with adults: Anything of true value and endurance is always discovered on the inside.

The Rabash (Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag), a great sage who lived in the 20th century, left us some illuminating words of
wisdom about that spark which always revived his love of life, and is still alive in each and every one of us. His words from the "Writings of Rabash" (Vol. II) are a reminder that it is up to us to reignite and broaden that spark.

"One must believe that he has a point in the heart, which is the spark that illuminates. And this spark must always be awakened," the Rabash wrote. "And sometimes the spark awakens by itself and one discovers that he lacks something — that he is missing spirituality, that he is too crude, and doesn’t see a purpose. And this spark does not allow his soul to rest."

This spark burns inside each and every one of us, and no matter how small, it beckons us to nurture it and turn it into a huge fire. In the meantime, many of us ignite the spark to a minuscule size by engaging in our mundane activities and attractions. But whether it is that new sushi restaurant or a beer at poolside, whether our "thrills" are cheap or expensive, short or long, they are all distractions that have one thing in common: They are all short lived and can only be enjoyed for a limited time.

They turn us on, lighting up our inner fire for just a moment, and immediately after we are faced again with a feeling of emptiness and a desire for the next source of entertainment.

So maybe we should be searching for a different type of "wooden planks" to keep our fire burning brighter and longer? Clearly, our inner spark thirsts to be lit by something greater, something that can only come from the depths of our soul.

Our inner spark needs adventure, but the kind that is situated above all that we’ve ever felt, heard or seen in this world. And if we knew there was something like that out there — just like we were sure of it when we were children, when the whole world was brand new and open to us — then just the search for that thing would keep our inner spark burning bright.

So what we really need is to keep searching for a source of light that is bigger than us, and that has the power to reignite our dwindling inner spark into a giant bonfire

(Keren Applebaum studied Jewish studies, philosophy and psychology at Harvard and Tel Aviv universities, and is now completing her honors bachelor of arts at Harvard. She lives in Israel.)
 

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