A Hanukkah Miracle for these Covid Times

Most people know Hanukkah lasts for 8 nights and that one candle is lit for each night on a menorah, or technically, a hanukkiah. Hanukkah means ‘dedication’ and it marks the liberation of the Temple in Jerusalem in the second century BCE when a small band of Jews, the Maccabees, liberated the Jewish people from the Syrian-Greeks who occupied the land forcing Greek culture on the Jews. When the Jews took back control of the Temple they only had oil for one night to rededicate the temple menorah, but it lasted for 8 nights.

Tonight is the 4th night of Hanukkah. Yesterday, while listening to NPR, I heard an inspiring story with Rabbi Ari Saks of the Huntington Jewish Center, New York in conversation with NPR’s Scott Simon. The rabbi brought home the connection between today’s battle against Covid19 and the little victories that help us get through these impossible-seeming times.

He told a story of Auschwitz, the most notorious of the Nazi concentration camps, and a small band of Jews who made their own miracle.

In Auschwitz this commandant of the Nazis thought it would be right to torment the people by saying, “Hey Jews guess what, don’t you know that it is Hanukkah? See we lit candles for you.” And he pointed to the crematoria that were at full blast.

“Oh, we have a Hanukkah gift for you.” And it was an extra loaf of bread and some margarine. And I think the Nazis just thought they were going to fight tooth and nail just to get a little piece of it. But these Jews inside this concentration camp said, “You know what? We’re going to turn this tormenting moment of being ridiculed into the greatest miracle,” which is to take the margarine and the loaf of bread and some other resources that they had available (and I have no idea how they do it), they formed the bread and margarine into candles that they could actually light in the midst of the burning crematoria that they saw by the window. The mitzvah, the commandment of Hanukkah, is to show off the candle to any passer by. You’re supposed to put it in your window so that people passing by can see it and they can be informed of the miracle of Hanukkah. And these Jews in Auschwitz they took the candle and they put it by the window so that the Nazis could see it. These Jews were scoring a victory over death.

“The miracle is not just in the light lasting for 8 nights, but like these Jews, it’s the faith of the people to light it the first night. It takes a lot of guts to be able to light a candle and say this candle is going to burn and represent my hope that there will be a future that I can hold on to that’s going to be better even more so than in the present.”

In the midst of the battle with Covid19 we are able to find some element of victory, find some thing to hold on to to give us hope for the future.


You can find the whole interview here:

https://www.npr.org/2020/12/12/945788794/celebrating-hanukkah-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

The ‘Stay at Home’ and What I Would Bring to Heaven Edition

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Like many of you I am sure, I am craving things I can’t have right now.

About falafeltwo weeks into ‘stay at home’ I woke up wanting falafel, so much so, my mouth was watering, which was a little messy on the pillow. I have a place nearby that serves the crispiest, most fragrant of these little chickpea balls based on their grandmother’s recipe. Grandma’s recipes, no matter the cuisine, are the best.

About a month later I started missing my library. I want to know what is on the new releases shelves and what I have missed on other shelves. I want to browse the vintage department of the used books for sale and see what gems have been donated. This hurts.

But I know this will not last and I am ok. I am doing well socially isolating and for various reasons do not go into any stores. I have never been much of an online buyer, but, my o my, I have discovered there isn’t much I can’t get online from grocery delivery, to dog and cat supplies to batteries and toothbrushes!

As I have been musing over things I miss I was looking through my old friend and spiritual companion Abbie Graham’s, Ceremonials of Common Days. She calls Eastertide a time of material transition, as the Season of the Relinquishment of Things “and is therefore, the time for an intensified appreciation of them.” She gives a list of the things she would bring to heaven. Obviously, this is an impossible and weighty list, even if she could bring anything with her (!), but I love that her list includes both the bold and the objects of everyday.

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Note: They may not let me enter with all of these, but the planning lends a sense of joyousness and comradeship to that final departure.

My Celestial Shopping List:

One Tea-room, serving cinnamon toast by a fireplace
Hollyhocks
Periwinkles
Ink
Two Roads, one small unimportant; one wide, very important
Queen Anne’s Lace
A Waterfall
One Range of Mountains
Coffee
One Blue Pine Tree, a Double Row of Poplars and Two Birches
Candles, orange and blue
One Fireplace
Blue Tea Cups, at least two
Golden Rod
A Sunrise
One Small Island, with large hemlock tree and little wintergreen flowers
One Head Waiter with One Sub-Waiter
A Little Garden
A Stony Brook
A Small Post Office

I would take many from her list and add ice cream (mint and chip), two California coastal live oaks, a granite boulder from the Sierras and of course, a public library and my falafel place.

The wonders of Creation and our creaturely habits are hard to let go!