Up Close and Personal with Kristin Harmel
It’s something I have found myself returning to again and again in my writing: the idea that it is sometimes in the deepest darkness that we find the brightest light within us.
That’s a theme that runs through my last three World War II novels (The Room on Rue Amelie, The Winemaker’s Wife, and The Book of Lost Names), and of course in those cases, the darkness in question was the shadow of the German Occupation during the Second World War.
But 2020 has been dark for many of us, too. Even those of us who have weathered the storm of the pandemic so far have had moments of despair, sadness, and hopelessness as we look out at a world that has changed beyond recognition. We miss our families, our friends, the ability to do simple things we once took for granted.
But there is always light—and today is a perfect day to be reminded of that, because we’re in the midst of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, which began last week and continues through Friday.
The holiday, of course, celebrates the miracle that occurred in the second century B.C., when, after reclaiming their temple in Jerusalem from their oppressors, the Jewish Maccabees relit their sacred lamp, which only had enough consecrated oil to burn for a day. Instead, it burned for eight days (until more oil could be procured)—hence the eight days of Hanukkah.
So why is this such an important story to be reminded of now? Because 2020 has been difficult, and Hanukkah tells us of miracles, of finding light in the darkness, and of the capacity of underdogs to be victorious against all odds.
It reminds us, too, that there is always hope, and that we must always seek brighter days ahead. In Christianity, light also plays a tremendous role, and it does in Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, too. Light in the darkness is a thread that runs through all the major world religions—and through our everyday lives. It’s something that connects us all.
So let’s take a moment now, too, during the final days of Hanukkah (whatever religion we follow), to reach for that spark of light within all of us, to believe in it, and to do our best to be part of bringing more light to the world.
Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate. And to all of you, whatever your faith, I wish you hope, light, and brighter days ahead.