There is a light that burns in every Jewish synagogue, the Ner Tamid.
In Judaism, the sanctuary lamp is known by its Hebrew name, ner tamid (Hebrew: נֵר תָּמִיד), which is usually translated as “eternal flame” or “eternal light”. Hanging or standing in front of the ark in every Jewish synagogue, it is meant to represent the menorah of the Temple in Jerusalem as well as the continuously burning fire on the altar of burnt offerings in front of the Temple. It also symbolizes God’s eternal presence and is therefore never extinguished. It is also intended to draw parallels between God and fire, or light, which is emphasized throughout the book of Exodus in the Torah. Additionally, it is often used to symbolize the light released from the shards of the receptacles that God used to create light and goodness. ~Wikipedia
Ever since Jake died, we keep a candle burning on our kitchen window sill for him. Nothing fancy, we get the 3-day candles from the 99¢ store; there is a box of them on the floor of our living room behind the little Dansk day bed. Sometimes we miss lighting a new one in time and it burns out overnight. When I come in to the kitchen in the morning, I get a jolt seeing the tall empty glass with the bit of wax residue and the square of metal that held the wick on the bottom. I hasten to retrieve a new one and light it right away, even before I put up the water for my morning tea. I expect we will maintain our own ‘eternal light’ for the rest of our lives.
We keep it burning for reasons of our own, there is no custom or ritual in Judaism that prescribes it.
When Jake was younger, he fell in love with candle making. It started on an elementary school trip, they made sand cast candles on the beach. He was always fascinated with process and making things, and true to form he threw himself into this new art form. He graduated from sand candles to pouring elaborate candles in a variety of shapes and colors. We made the trek out to General Wax in North Hollywood many times to procure huge slabs of various waxes, molds, wicks, colors, sparkles, pots, tools, all the accoutrements of the trade. He even had a little business selling votive candles to local restaurants. He began by making them himself, but the orders got so voluminous, and the process so laborious, that he soon figured out to just take the orders and have the votives drop shipped from General Wax right to his customers. All he had to do was make the call and pick up the check. As he got older, the candle business fell by the wayside as did his candle making hobby. We eventually sold all the gear as he had moved on to bigger and more incendiary pursuits. Like welding. But I digress.
The ever-burning candle reminds me of that eager little boy asking the managers of the restaurants we dined in, “Would you buy candles from me?” Reminds me of his making decorative candles and selling them, buying cases of round candles, tall candles, fluted candles, tea lights, votives, oil candles, and finally electric LED candles. (We still have boxes of candles in the garage.) Reminds me of the young man who led candle making for the kids in our synagogue every Hanukkah, the festival of light. He was definitely into light and fire. I smile every time I think of it
Jake had a million candle-power personality. He could light up a room with a smile. He brought so much light to the ones he loved and loved him. He sparkled with enthusiasm, with knowledge, with care, with humor, with friendship, with wit, with thought, with the sheer joy of life. Our little candle is but a shard, a pale glimmer of the light that Jake took with him when he left this world. By keeping that tiny flame burning, it brings a little more light into the world in his honor.
Our candle serves as a beacon for his spirit, a light to guide his way home when he comes to visit. In the same way, it is a beacon for my spirit, an eternal connection to the possibility of his return. Not that I expect him to knock at the door, I gave up hope for that long ago. But I know he does come to us periodically. He comes to me in dreams. Sometimes so vividly, I know it is a visit from him. Sometimes his presence is vague and ill-defined, but he is there. Sometimes I can sense him during the day: a sound, a smell, a song on the radio. He is here. He is wherever we are.
We tend that eternal light with the same love and care that we tended him during his life.It is a token of our undying love for him. A symbol to the world that we can never let him go completely. That he dwells in our hearts and soul for as long as we live. That our love never wavers, never goes out, and that love illuminates our lives and the tiny corner of the world in which we live.
Shine on, Jakey Jake. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.