“Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to bind us together
With peace as the song in our hearts.”
~Peter, Paul, and Mary, “Light One Candle”
For as long as I can remember, Hanukkah has been one of my favorite holidays. There’s a warmth to it, a peace and joy, that fills my heart and lifts my soul. I have so many wonderful memories of lighting the menorah with my family, holding tight to the rainbow of ridged candles and watching as their flames danced from one to the other. Of spinning dreidels, giggling as they whirled around in a blur of color before tumbling to the floor with one of the four Hebrew letters facing up. Of seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they opened gifts, of excitedly tearing open my own, of gathering around the table during our family party to eat pizza, latkes, and doughnuts. Hanukkah is togetherness. It’s family. It’s love. It’s hope and faith and belief. It’s light.
And it’s a teacher, too. Here’s what the Festival of Lights always reminds me:
Miracles can happen, if we only believe in them enough. That oil in the menorah so long ago? It was only enough to last for one day, but its flame stayed steady for eight, until more could be found. So often today, we hear about the negative. All we have to do is turn on the television, pick up a newspaper, or scan the headlines online, and it’s enough to knock the wind out of us. This week, especially, the news has been particularly hard to take. And hearing about all these things … well, I don’t know about you guys, but it’s enough to make me want to lock the door and stay inside the house sometimes. But there are wonderful stories, too. Heartwarming ones. There are stories about holiday miracles, like the homeless man who wanted a family for Thanksgiving and got one. Stories about those who dedicate countless time and effort to help others, both people and animals, like the amazing bunny rescue I got Jasper from – they’ve found homes for nearly two hundred rabbits this year! Good is happening out there, too. And no, maybe we won’t all get the miracles we’re wishing for this season, but who knows? Maybe we will.
We can overcome the odds with strength and determination. The odds were stacked against the Maccabees all those years ago. Their temple had been seized. They were in hiding. They had many, many battles to fight. But they didn’t give up. They got that temple back and rededicated it. How many of us can relate? We all have our own battles, big and small. We all have our moments of wanting to give up, to give in. But if we keep pushing, keep listening to our hearts and following our whispers, who knows what we can achieve? I’d like to think it’s something far greater than we can even imagine.
A little light goes a long way. That light shimmered bright as the stars in the temple, even when it wasn’t supposed to anymore. The flicker held strong in the darkness. Something I’ve learned: for me, that light is my family and friends. It’s the people who offer a hand when I’ve stumbled, the ones who are there for me unconditionally, whether it’s to listen, to give advice and support, or just to spend time together, either in person or via technology. You guys are my light. Is that corny? Maybe, but it’s true. When I’m feeling down, all I have to do is think of the truly special people in my life and it brings back a glow. One light begets another. One flame helps the next grow. One person can help another in such important ways.
These are the things I remember when I look at the menorah now. Happy Hanukkah to everyone celebrating, and Chag Sameach!