The days of Kislev and Tevet are the darkest of the year, and with these short days we often feel down, saddened and even depressed. Physiologically, there is good reason for this, as we are creatures craving sunlight; but, nonetheless, this can be a rough time of year.
The December Dilemma doesn’t make things easier. For some the Dilemma is how to survive the onslaught of Christmas-laden music in stores wherever we go; for others it is a distinct melancholy at not being able to be with family at Chanukah time. And for some of our families there is an annual dilemma of balance, when it is an interfaith family. (While it is important to honor ones mother and father, and that might include going to gramma and grampa’s house for Christmas day, it is also important to maintain your own home as authentically Jewish as possible, so the child knows clearly that he or she is being raised as a Jew.)
Which brings us to the light (literally) in the darkness—- Chanukah (the Festival of Dedication)/ Chag HaUrim (the Holiday of the Lights). These “eight crazy daya” (as Adam Sandler puts it, are a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the miracle of the oil, the victory of the Maccabbees over the Syrian-Greeks, the possibility of right over might…all great lessons for our day.
Let’s make these eight nights even more meaningful this year than ever before. Here are some suggestions: 1) Dedicate the candle for each day to a pledge to do something for a different charitable organization…and then follow up to make sure you actually do what you pledged to do. 2) Light each candle in honor of someone who has influenced you in your life; and then, follow up, by sending a note of thanks to that person or his or her families. 3) Dedicate each candle to something you want to do for the community or congregation…. and then follow up by doing it. 4) Dedicate each camdle to something you would like to learn; and then, follow up by finding a teacher with whom to work. 5) Make a family Channukiah. 6) Have friends over to light the candles and swap inexpensive gifts. 7) Learn how to fry latkes (levivot) sing and play dreidel 8) See how many Jewish-themed movies you can rent, and watch one each night. How you and yours celebrate Chanukah is limited only by your imagination.
The important thing is to bring light into your life….literally and spiritually. May we all be warmed by the glow of the candles in our Chanukkiyot and spread Chanukah joy to friends and family.