Last Friday, just after the Sabbath sunset, people from all over Green Bay gathered on the sidewalk along the side and front of Congregation Cnesses Israel Synagogue. Most of those who had gathered, as requested, had a candle of some kind. Some were inside of elaborate glass lanterns. Some included only a cardboard disk to catch dripping wax.
I wanted to bring a real candle, a wax one, one made by the hard work of hundreds of bees who had made thousands of trips to flowers and back to the hive where they had deposited wax for the worker bees to form into the storage cells that serve as a nursery for baby bees and as a place to keep honey. The story bees tell is one of hundreds of individuals working together as one to provide for the present and future well-being of the hive.
And to provide wax for candles to burn with their lovely glow in human houses of worship. With the ways in which bees are under attack in recent years, I wonder if it makes sense that we use the real wax the bees make. I’ll have to look into that.
I couldn’t find a plastic cup at church that fit my candle, so I just took the candle. And matches just in case.
By the time I arrived, candle light was already shining along the parking lot to the corner and had begun to spread along busy Baird Street. In the middle of the parking lot, I met a member of the synagogue I knew. He didn’t have a candle, so the matches came in handy. As we talked, I lit my candle with the matches and another member of the synagogue joined the conversation. I was able to light his candle. With some difficulty. It was windy. In our conversation I sensed great relief and joy from the two of them at the increasing light in front of their house of worship. Every time it happens, one of them said, (referring to the murder of worshiping Jews in Pittsburgh), you wonder if the Holocaust is about to begin again. I don’t think we non-Jews appreciate the level of trauma Jews feel about the Holocaust. Six million Lutherans were not, after all, exterminated by Hitler. Hence their relief and the joy that so many people had gathered to say with their candles, “This should not be happening here.”
I met several people I know and the conversations naturally became light-hearted. There was laughter. Which I felt bad about later. This gathering was sparked by tragedy. I hope I did not offend anyone in attendance.
Still, the Devil hates laughter. And music. And happy meals among family and friends. And the light of the world shines in the darkness and the darkness did not and will not overcome it (John 1:5). Armed guards in houses of worship will not overcome the darkness. Only light.
It grew windier, colder. Harder to keep our individual lights lit. Protecting my candle more carefully, the candlelight felt good on my shaking palm. The warm wax literally stuck the candle to my hand. It was good, I was thinking, to become one with the light of my candle in that strange way, but also with that long line of light which the darkness did not, will not overcome. The bees were there, too. And the flowers blooming in the summer sun. All of us working together to provide for the present and future well-being of humanity and creation, alike.