40 Days to a Better You » Eight Days of Chanukah 2013 http://40daystoabetteryou.com Join the Journey with Rabbi Daniel Cohen Thu, 05 Dec 2013 19:07:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.7.1 The Eighth Flame: Light a Fire http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/the-eighth-flame-light-a-fire/ http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/the-eighth-flame-light-a-fire/#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2013 19:07:17 +0000 http://40daystoabetteryou.com/?p=1399 Continue reading ]]> IMG_00000872A Magic Moment in a NYC Taxi

We are in the midst of season of light. What is the take away from the glow? Today is the final day of Chanukah.

As a child, I learned from my parents, it is not only our responsibility to keep the flame alive but spread it around. If we do, the fire will always burn bright.

This life affirming message struck a chord last week at the funeral of Richie Farber, of blessed memory and for me in deeply personal way in a New York City cab on a 10 minute ride from the upper east side to Grand Central Station.

One of Richie’s sons reflected about his father, “He was a people person and when he met someone he always wanted to make them feel amazing.”

Like most everyone of us, we are inspired by such a description but do we live by this motto? If we did, the world would be much different.

We encounter dozens of people a day but do we make them feel amazing?

In my mind, we keep the flame of Chanukah alive when we ignite another person and transform a fleeting moment into an eternal one.

For me, this moment occurred on Park Avenue at 30 mph in a New York City yellow cab a few days ago.

As I entered the car on Sunday night, I was confronted with a choice. Do I engage or disengage? Do I keep the flame or share it?

I decided to light a fire.

I started a conversation with the cabbie and he opened up. He shared with me that people think all cab drivers are the same when in fact they are not. Some drive to make ends meet, some to pay for college and others to earn extra money in retirement. He expressed his gratitude for Thanksgiving, a holiday for people of all faiths and also shared with me how appreciative he is for a NYC High School diploma.

When I was about to leave the car, he offered me the following wish: “God bless you.” I responded, “God bless you.”

I will likely never see this person again but I truly felt that our two lights merged in the car and we generated some more light for the world.

God bless each of you with a holiday of Chanukah that inspires you to keep lighting the lights every day and every night. With God’s help, we will all make the world an even brighter place.

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The Seventh Flame: Your Flame http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/the-seventh-flame-your-flame/ http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/the-seventh-flame-your-flame/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 22:15:52 +0000 http://40daystoabetteryou.com/?p=1397 Continue reading ]]>

Which one of the flames will you carry with you beyond Chanukah?

Will it be the flame of Jewish identity or of gratitude? Will it be the flame of courage, Torah or another flame? What memory will you live in you?

It is no wonder that the eighth day is described as the essence of the holiday. The number seven signifies the natural world, but eight symbolizes the world beyond. We tend to move from one day to the next and fondly reminisce about life. However, the eighth day beckons us to reflect on the impact of the holiday on our lives and guarantee the vibrancy and vitality of our experience. The holidays are rallying points to propel us to supernatural spiritual heights.

How will we have changed after Chanukah?

Reflect on your gift from the holiday.

How will we keep the flame alive? My inspiration emerges from the symbolism of the lights of Chanukah as sparks of the soul. We each possess a light from Above that can never be extinguished. Metaphorically, the jar of pure olive oil discovered on Chanukah and miraculously burning for eight days signifies our infinite potential for growth.

When we spend time with our children, are we fueling their love of Torah and enabling them to become their best?

Will we spread light to our family and community?

In less than 48 hours, the holiday will end. What flame will you take with you?

Thank you for joining the journey of 8 Days to a Better You!

Stay in touch and keep the flame alive!

Happy Chanukah,

Rabbi Daniel Cohen

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The Sixth Flame: The Flame of Continuity http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/sixth-flame-flame-of-continuity/ http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/sixth-flame-flame-of-continuity/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 21:09:56 +0000 http://40daystoabetteryou.com/?p=1394 Continue reading ]]>

In memory of my mother, Sara Malka bat Aharon Avraham Halevi

As I lit the Chanukah candles this past Shabbat, I was surrounded by my wife, daughters, sister and her family and my brother. I reflected on our time as children lighting in Atlanta and the influence of my parents. The positive experience of those flames created memories living in me today and in turn inspire me to create memories of my own.

My mother’s memory lives in my hearts through the sparks of her soul I integrate into my life. Each one of us can remember a loved one who guides us.

On Chanukah night, we draw on the heroism of the Maccabees. The lights of the Menorah beckon us to embody their passion for Torah living, belief in G-d, and courageous leadership.

The lights of the menorah, though, also remind us to ask ourselves how we will be remembered in the future. What sparks do we ignite in our children? What can we do to insure our continuity? What memories so we create?

On every night of Chanukah, we symbolically receive the inspiration of the past through the shamash (a lit candle) but recite a new blessing of lighting the Chanukiah as a call to fuel the future.

Be kindled from our history. Ignite our future. We are the flames who serve as the bridge between generations.

Our ancestors live through us. Who lives through you? Is it a grandparent, a parent or a dear friend? How do you carry their flame?

Wishing you and your families a happy Chanukah!

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The Fifth Flame: The Inner Flame – A Meditation http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/the-fifth-flame-inner-flame-meditation/ http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/the-fifth-flame-inner-flame-meditation/#comments Sun, 01 Dec 2013 21:16:39 +0000 http://40daystoabetteryou.com/?p=1389 Continue reading ]]>

IMG_00000860Take some time to meditate on the flames as they burn tonight.

Gaze at them. Do not think about the future or worry about what you are doing next. Be in the moment.

Imagine that G-d is looking down at you with a smile. What about the flame fascinates you?

The soul is the flame within us. The fire of the chanukiah fuels our inner flame.

Close your eyes and sit quietly. Open your eyes. Imagine yourself as Moses at the burning bush and G-d calls to you… What do you hear?

I received the following insight from a participant in 8 Days to a Better You:

“To me the flame represents our life. It represents the things we have lived through – the happy times, the sad times and the challenges we had to face. It is so important to keep that flame burning as we pass it along to the next generation. They, in turn, will pass it on so the next generation can benefit from the experiences of their forefathers.”

If one person breaks that chain and does not share their past stories, those special  memories will die like the candle burning down. We must keep that flame alive and kindle another person’s light.

What does the flame signify to you? Share your inspiration on this post and illuminate your life!

Keep the flame alive,

Rabbi Cohen

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The Fourth Flame: The Twisted Flame http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/fourth-flame-twisted-flame/ http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/fourth-flame-twisted-flame/#comments Fri, 29 Nov 2013 19:29:27 +0000 http://40daystoabetteryou.com/?p=1386 Continue reading ]]>

The Havdalah candle we light on Saturday night at the end of Shabbat is a twisted flame. Two wicks braided together. What is the message for Chanukah?

Fire symbolizes both life and death. A fire can be destructive or constructive. It can burn or it can build.

The debate between the house of Shamai and the House of Hillel regarding the progression of lighting the Chanukiah reflects the duality of fire. Do we begin with eight candles on the first night and dim the lights signifying fire’s ability to burn, or do we start with one flame and brighten the holiday each night symbolizing fire’s ability to build?

The twisted flame reminds us that it is not always easy in life to harness and elevate the holy. Light and Darkness are not always separated, and the same tools from G-d can either be profane or sanctified. We light the twisted flame on Saturday night to charge us with instilling our week with light.

At the beginning of time, the world was filled with darkness and G-d brought light. We too must bring light to the world. Spend a fewminutes writing down a new wayyou canadd light to the world this Chanukah and beyond.

May the lights of Havdalah and Chanukah bring blessing and peace to you and your families.

Shavua Tov and Happy Chanukah!

Rabbi Daniel Cohen

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The Third Flame: Seeing the Light http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/the-third-flame-seeing-the-light/ http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/the-third-flame-seeing-the-light/#comments Fri, 29 Nov 2013 19:27:47 +0000 http://40daystoabetteryou.com/?p=1382 Continue reading ]]> James Michener writes “An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine but because people refuse to see it.”

Yesterday morning, my daughter Elisheva, saw the light. I am so grateful.

We were getting ready for the Shippan Turkey Trot in Stamford. It was very cold. However, while I was focused on staying warm, she showed me a beautiful sight overlooking the Long Island Sound and captured this image.


When reflecting on the flames of the Chanukah, I think about the lights sparkling everywhere. They may be in a sunrise or sunset or a looking into a child’s eyes. The light never fails to shine. May the flames of tonight inspire us never to fail to see them.

Wishing everyone a Chanukah filled with light!

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The Second Flame: A Reflection of the Living Torah http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/the-second-flame-a-reflection-of-the-living-torah/ http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/the-second-flame-a-reflection-of-the-living-torah/#comments Thu, 28 Nov 2013 19:34:00 +0000 http://40daystoabetteryou.com/?p=1373 Continue reading ]]> Reflection composed on Chanukah while in Israel a few years ago. The idea remains as relevant as ever.

I am sitting at the Western Wall plaza after midnight and less than 24 hours before kindling the second flame of Chanukah. The sound of prayer and learning echo off the walls and a serene peace fills the cool air. A menorah stands ready to be lit at the center of the plaza adjacent to the ancient and holy stones.

What illumination will the first night convey? How will we grow through the flame?

When you light the second flame, contemplate whether we remain victorious over the ancient Greeks. The celebration of Chanukah is not simply a historic commemoration but a reengagement with the timeless touchstones of Judaism.

Let us explore one of the touchstones….

The Greeks prohibited the Jewish people from learning Torah. They did not threaten the Jew physically but rather spiritually. They understood the power of the Torah to anchor and guide our live and sustain our future. Do we value Torah in the same way? Do we view study of Torah as any other book of wisdom or as a tree of life?

Since arriving in Israel, I have witnessed images of the flame of the living Torah. Each one symbolizes the victory we experience TODAY.

First, we are studying at Yeshiva Bircas Reuven in the old city, an institution driven to engage people in the conversation of Torah. Each person spends hours studying with a partner in an animated repartee of questions, answers, proofs and refutations. Who knew the study of Torah could be so exciting, stimulating and meaningful?

I visited my daughter Sara Malka who is studying this year at Shaalvim for Women in Jerusalem. In a presentation on Chanukah to the school, I spoke about the portable light of Torah serving as our guide outside the walls of our schools and houses of worship. Do we take the Torah on the road or leave it in the ark?

Following dinner with her and a few friends, I had the merit to learn with Sara Malka and a friend about the coming week’s Torah portion. I took a back seat and experienced such joy as they plumbed the depths of the text asking penetrating questions and seeking some answers.

Finally, we visited Bnai Brak for a Torah tour. Many of us are familiar with this city from the story in the Passover Hagadah of the rabbis who shared the story of the Exodus all night long. Today, the city serves as a symbol of the flame of the living Torah. We visited Rabbi Beryl Povarsky, one of the leaders of the legendary Ponevitzh Yeshivah, who spoke of the power of Torah to sustain the Jewish people. At night, we visited the cemetery in Bnai Brak. As we heard of the leadership of the Chazon Ish to gather the sparks of Torah following the Holocaust and revitalize Torah in Israel, the echoes of young children singing words of Torah wafted through the air. As we finished the evening service moments before leaving the cemetery, we visited the grave of Rabbi Shach, another Torah giant, and met his grandson and great granddaughter on the evening before her wedding.

This evening, we can declare victory over the ancient Greeks. The Torah is alive in the hearts of the Jewish people. However, we are called upon to fuel the flame in our own lives this year.

When we light tonight, spend a moment meditating on the following: How can I and my family deepen my engagement with Torah study? How can I find a few more minutes every day to study Torah and insure its vitality in my life? If I were alive during the time of Chanukah, would I fight for the right to study Torah?

We all learned the Torah in the womb prior to entering this world. Although we do not remember all of the teachings, deep inside there is a wellspring waiting to burst forth into our lives.

May the second flame tonight ignite our passion for Torah. Whether in Bnai Brak, Jerusalem, Stamford, or anywhere in the world, the power of the Torah links us to our past and rejuvenates our future.

Wishing you and your families a happy Chanukah!

With blessings,

Rabbi Daniel Cohen

Hear Rabbi Cohen’s presentation at Bircas Reuven on the Lights of Chanukah.

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The First Flame: Counting the Stars http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/first-flame-counting-the-stars/ http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/first-flame-counting-the-stars/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 21:15:26 +0000 http://40daystoabetteryou.com/?p=1369 Continue reading ]]> What do the Chanukah flames signify to you? Share your insights on the post for the daily flame and inspire others all over the world!

Last year, I asked one of my daughters this question and she responded, “The light of Chanukah signifies spirit and hope!”

Have you ever tried counting the stars in the sky? In Genesis, G-d promises Abraham that the Jewish people will someday be as numerous as the stars in the sky. G-d enjoins Abraham to try and count the stars to see if he can quantify them knowing full well that the task is impossible. How can we count the infinite?

The answer emerges from the story of the Maccabees.

Imagine if the Maccabees had abandoned hope of defeating the mighty Greek army. Their battle was against all odds, yet they never lost hope. Possessing deep faith and courage, they dreamed the impossible. As Ethics of Our Fathers states, “It is not up to us to finish the task but we are not free to desist from trying.”

G-d’s command to count the stars implanted within Jews of all generations the spiritual audacity to dream and realize the impossible. Throughout our history, we are called upon to maintain our faith in the eternality of the Jewish people and serve as G-d’s partners in realizing our destiny.

One of my most moving Chanukah experiences was in Jerusalem when I accompanied a small group on a walking tour of the Western Wall tunnels. Although I had walked these steps before, I experienced an eternal moment. My soul stirred as I gazed into the flames of the Chanukiah burning only yards away from the original Menorah lit on the Temple mount. Thousands of years later, the flame burns brightly… so close to the kindling of the flame by the Maccabees thousands of years ago.

The first flame ignites our dreams of transforming the impossible into the possible for the Jewish people. The reading of the Prophets on Chanukah echoes this theme. In stirring the Jews to rebuild the Temple after the Babylonian exile, Zechariah proclaims, “Not by might and not by power but by Spirit” will we realize our dreams.

How can we ignite the impossible for the Jewish people? What will we do to hasten the coming of the Messiah? How will the lights of Chanukah motivate us to count the stars in the sky?

Share your inspiration!

Wishing you and your family a happy Chanukah!

With blessings,

Rabbi Daniel Cohen

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Special Chanukah Edition http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/special-chanukah-edition/ http://40daystoabetteryou.com/eight-days-of-chanukah-2013/special-chanukah-edition/#comments Mon, 25 Nov 2013 20:48:36 +0000 http://40daystoabetteryou.com/?p=1366 Continue reading ]]>

Light the World and Ignite Your Soul during the Eight Days of Chanukah!

Eight Nights of Chanukah from November 27th – December 5th.

You are about to embark on the journey of Eight Days to a Better You for Chanukah. Are you ready? Chanukah begins Wednesday evening. I am sure we have plans for eating latkes, spinning dreidels, attending Chanukah parties and of course lighting the chanukiah (the menorah). However, the festival offers much more and can transform our lives.

Wednesday night, we enter a zone for growth. The next eight days possess touchstones for greatness and tools for soul development. How can we experience miracles today? What is the secret of Jewish identity? How can Chanukah inspire us to achieve our personal best? How can Chanukah enrich our relationships and deepen our happiness?

Our holidays are not merely commemorations of historical events but opportunities to access a higher purpose in life. Join me on the journey and share your gifts of light after each post. Please share this email and encourage your friends to sign up for the Eight Days to a Better You:

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