Just a little note: as a writer, I’m changing the names of my wife and kids to protect their real identities. Also, from time to time I might incorporate stories and feedback from other parents into these characters and others, to give voice to the many ways ShalomLearning affects the lives of our children and families.
Sunday night, December 13th, 2015. 5 pm. 8 hours after the kids’ ShalomLearning morning sessions. We lit all the Chanukah candles tonight right next to the hamster cage by the window, as we celebrated the 8th and final day, where the miracle is at its strongest. After singing our songs and prayers, Jonah, staring at the glow of the 8 candles with his 8 year old eyes asked, “I wonder how far the light of our sun shines out into space?”
My 10 year old, Hannah, with the pinache of a brooding artist exploring scientific information, was the first responder tonight, “well… most of the universe is empty space and darkness anyway.”
“Oh yeah?” I asked.
She turned our attention to the blog about dark matter, “only 4 percent of all that space and energy is light.”
“Overall, dark energy is thought to contribute 73 percent of all the mass and energy in the universe. Another 23 percent is dark matter, which leaves only 4 percent of the universe composed of regular matter, such as stars, planets and people.”
“That’s not very much,” Jonah calculated while spinning a dreidel.
“But that’s all we really need,” Kristen replied.
Hannah brought us back to astrophysics, “the universe is expanding even faster than anyone thought and most of it is this ‘mysterious dark matter’.”
“Well,” I replied, passing out the dreidel bingo cards, in a way it can be easier to find when you are surrounded by darkness…that little spark of light will help you find your way.”
Later that night, after the kids were in bed, Kristen’s words came back to me about the 4%, “that’s all we really need.”
Some might say that those numbers are a grim revelation of an overwhelming dark power that is knocking out the galaxies of light.
But what if it was never about quantity in the first place? There is only one area to turn for value and that is quality. Perhaps this dark matter is indeed pure nothingness and it can expand all it wants to.
All that matters is the little spark of light that we hold on to. I’ll take this 4 percent of light any day over eternal nothingness. To me, that is Judaism. We take it on faith and we cling to the light. We carry on because well, we carry on. The odds have always been stacked up against the Jewish people from the beginning of monotheism. The universe can spin its space and nothingness and darkness for 13 billion years like the hamster on the wheel next to our menorah: it moves and moves but goes nowhere. It seems like a waste of energy. (Hmm..but we could hook up the wheel to a generator some day…)
I am putting my faith in an honest 4% of matter that I know is real because everything else is well…darkness? There is a goodness and a sweetness that only the light can provide, like a glimpse into the best part of eternity.
For me, there is no question in my mind that this cosmic operation, we are meant to be a light unto the nations. We just have been handed a torch and have to find new ways in every generation to keep it burning, that’s all. Otherwise the light could go out. And it feels amazing to know that we are doing everything we can, when we say, “Not on my watch.” ShalomLearning is reinventing Jewish education to speak to a new generation in a new way, but that Light has not changed. And it is up to all of us to keep it going.