It’s all about the Light.
As a kid growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, winters were severe and seemingly endless. Serial snowstorms, single digit temperatures above and below zero. November through March and often most of April were dreary, dark, and depressing. The worst of it all I realize now, wasn’t the daily challenges brought by winter weather: shoveling the driveway from apron to garage (120 feet. I know because half of that driveway served as a pitching mound during the summer months). There was also the nightly nuisance of helping neighbors push their cars up their driveways.
Of course, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Winter provided its joyous rituals as well. Knocking seven-foot icicles off the sides of our neighbor’s house with carefully crafted ice balls, snow balls stored in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Sledding and tobogganing at the local park.
But at the end of the day, it was all about the light. The very lack of it. Most days I would leave home for school in morning darkness and return in late afternoon darkness. Long winter days stretching for months with little or no light.
But Hanukkah! Oh Hanukkah!! Hanukkah was a brilliant beacon of light and hope in the long winter’s night. We proudly displayed our large electric ‘menorah’ as it was referred to then in the front window for all passersby to see.
As I think of it now, it wasn’t a courageous Maccabean act of defiance as nearly everyone in our neighborhood was a Jew, but deeply proud nonetheless. Our family of four, my mom and dad, my brother and I, poised in front of a small metallic menorah, would place the colorful little candles in their designated nightly spots: one, two, three until all eight would illuminate the dining room.
My brother and I would sing the blessings, Ma’oz Tzur, along with every Hanukkah song we had been taught. There were many.
We’d then sit and watch the flames flicker until the last candle gave up. A few gifts would follow. At first it was a real silver dollar! A few years later, a five-dollar bill!!!
But it was really all about the light.
May the lights of Shabbat and Hanukkah bring warmth and wonder and lasting memories to each and everyone of you and those you love!
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah.