“The poor man and the broken man have had their fate ordained, but God will enlighten the eyes of both.” Proverbs 29:13) The poor man is a person who has never studied Torah. The broken man is a man who studied and forgot all his learning. The porr man comes to the broken man and cries, “Teach me Torah!” The broken man responds, “I have forgotten all my learning.” The poor man presses and says, “Teach me whatever you remember!” But the broken man replies, “I remember nothing.” They both turn to God and cry out, “God! Enlighten the eyes of both!” And, God does. (Gra, Commentary to Proverbs)
There are two types of darkness: The first is the feeling of a person who has never experienced light. He knows that light exists, but he has never seen it. He feels lost and is searching for something, but he is not quite sure for what he is looking as he has never seen it.
We are familiar with people who have had issues that have haunted them their entire lives. They see other people functioning with joy and yet are unable to access the light that will bring such joy. “I have never been able to study Gemara – Talmud. I am frustrated. I do not even know what it is like to enjoy the experience.” “I have been depressed all my life and do not even know what it is like to not be depressed.” “I have never been happy in my marriage.”
The second type of darkness is that experienced by a person who once ‘had it all,’ only to lose it through circumstance or irresponsibility. “I have lost all the joy in my marriage.” “I used to be happy and now I am so depressed that I can’t even remember what it is like to be happy.” “I used to love learning Gemara and now I feel lost.”
The first person will turn to the second and ask, “Please tell me what it was like when you had it.” The second person is convinced that his experience of darkness is even worse, for he knows what he has lost.
The Gra teaches us that both must pray together. We must appreciate our desperate need for light, with an equal appreciation that light can be lost and we must work to preserve it.
We must keep the first appreciation in mind as we prepare the candles. “I am preparing the candles because I cannot exist without light.”
When we kindle the candles, we must remember that we must work to maintain the light.
The best way to preserve the light we have is to illuminate the lives of others. This is the Kavana we must have in mind as we light one candle from the other, the Shamash, and as we light increasing candles each night.