Touch me, remind me who I am.
Today marks the end of Hanukkah for the Jewish year of 5775. For so many reasons, Hanukkah seems more special this year. That the Festival of Lights coincides with the Winter Solstice somehow feels appropriate. We crave more light, as we endure
the fewest hours of daylight of the year. To compensate for this, we have the beauty of the menorah, with the symmetry of four candles on each side surrounding the elevated center candle. On the first day of this holiday, the menorah seems so bereft with
just a solitary candle on the outer edge, so disconnected from the center candle.
Tonight, the menorah can finally radiate its full gleam.
The high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur began the year with an optimism and renewal of our lives. Then Sukkot celebrates our connection to the land and the food it provides us. Simchat Torah mixes the cerebral challenge of learning and trying to understand the message of our sacred scroll with a celebration that we have finished the cycle for the year, and we start it anew.
Hanukkah has never held a high place in the pantheon of Jewish holidays; its increasing prominence reflects the encroachment of the secular world on the world apart that the Jewish people experienced up until the past handful of generations. A more heartfelt celebration of Hanukkah is not a bad thing. Nominally it marks another of those seemingly innumerable periods of peril that the Jewish people have faced. It last eight days, just like Passover, another one of those periods. But contrary to Passover, which is observed by sacrifice, Hanukkah brightens a dark time of the year with lights and allows for celebratory
meals without all those dietary restrictions. The blessing after lighting the Hanukkah candles is also so much more concise than the elaborate Passover seder. The childish Hanukkah songs may not be comparable to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, but
then Hanukkah is a much less embellished holiday. And let it remain that way! Let us enjoy a holiday that is relatively stress-free, spin our dreidels and sing our simple songs.
Here we get ‘Christmas explained by Jews,’ and ‘Hanukkah explained by Christians.’
(Alllll the points to the dude who confuses “ladle” with “dreidel.”) !