When the light abounds

Christmas this week – last week Chanukah;

The truth be told, Chanukah is not “eight crazy nights” as has been immortalized in Adam Sandler’s The Chanukah Song. In fact, it is a minor holiday and in no way comparable to the seasonal cousin Christmas – which undoubtedly takes top billing in December amongst most if not all other religious celebrations of this festive month. Yet every year I am restating to my non-Jewish friends and colleagues how Chanukah IS NOT significant to Jews as Christmas is to Christians. In the earlier part of the Chanukah holiday my menorah (or Chanukiah – the Chanukah candelabra) looked empty and lonely. With each successive night an additional candle is lit until on the eight and final night of the holiday all arms of the menorah are lit fully in packed splendour and magnificence. It was the only night of the eight where I took a photograph of it and posted it to my Facebook wall – and no it wasn’t a selfie! My menorah definitively looked complete. However, despite the inferior status of the holiday – this year it took on new substance to me.

The Chanukah menorah while bereft of its full illumination made me feel – temporarily incomplete. For seven of eight days something was lacking on the menorah and also in myself. There was a heaviness that I couldn’t quite explain yet was very present. After the forth night of Chanukah – the mid way point – the menorah began to show signs of life – there was the expectation or shall I say hope of what was to come.

Perhaps it is no accident that Chanukah like so many festive holidays, takes place in December – the end point of our Gregorian calendar year. It is a time to reflect on the year that was, make New Years resolutions that don’t often last but that is beside the point, hope for a brighter tomorrow and generally one becomes more optimistic about our life. Who can deny the palpable aura of joy during this time of the year that is unfortunately not as present let’s say in February or August?

For many however, 2015 was a tragic year. Some of us have lost loved ones – for that reason alone 2015 will forever be etched in our memory as a sorrowful year. I lost my own father, but viewing death as an inevitable part of life I gained far more than I lost – and my regular readership know there is a lot more to that story. Also in 2015 we continue to be witness to humans acting inhumanely and that has caused some people to view the world through an ugly lens, a lens that can contaminate our own perception of the beauty that is ever present in our lives and in the broader community in which we live.

On the ninth night, when Chanukah officially concluded at sundown, I was coincidentally immersed in music and my soul began to soar for the first time in a few weeks. Watching The Voice Finale and then Adele’s live special from New York City was the spark that lit the tinder and kindling already present. It was my illumination.

So on to the New Year – I wish we will all have the good fortune of new beginnings as we prepare to end 2015 and look forward to 2016. May your world be one of full illumination allowing the beauty in it to shine and I wish all of you joy and discovery in your life.


Help me – I’m trapped …

I want to get away from all of this.

Who does she think she is?

I feel like everything I do turns out wrong.

How can he do that to me after all I have done for him?

When will I stop hurting so much?

How come he hates me?

Will the heartache ever end?

Why can’t my sister go to moms this one time?

Why does she treat me so badly?

They are out to get me.

I don’t want to do that anymore.

I feel marginalized.

The service was terrible.

Why did I yell at him?

I am afraid to try.

They are all terrorists.

I will never forgive her.

How can he possibly think that?

Why must I make him dinner tonight of all nights?

She thinks she is so perfect.

Again I got a lousy birthday present from my husband.

I don’t want to go to church today.

How can my brother treat me this way?

Why do I have to work at this job?

I feel completely alone.

Why am I angry all the time?

He is unbelievably controlling – why?

I hate these idiotic drivers.

All I want is for him to love me.

My teacher is stupid.

Look at what he is wearing – he looks foolish.

I got passed over for that job – again.

God just let me win the lottery.

When will I feel happy?

F him – I am not in the mood.

Never again will I ever talk to him.

I want to be alone.

Don’t you think that I at least deserved a phone call?

How can you vote for that party? Are you deranged?

You are no longer a part of us?

Can anyone love me?

You have ruined my life.

Doesn’t she know I love her?

I didn’t even get a thank you.

Why do I feel so guilty?

I am tired of this life.

I can’t be with him anymore.

My husband doesn’t see me.

She has money – let her fix it.

Our politicians are all crooks.

You have turned your back on us.

Why can’t they see I have changed?

I can’t leave.

How can they bring these people into the country?

I don’t have enough money.

Kill them all.

She fired me when she is the one who can’t do her job.

Climate change?

I wish I could wipe that smug look off his face.

I walked in and was totally ignored.

Why can’t he get me?

I am going to get even.

It is the same thing over and over again.

I need a day just for me time.

It’s not possible.

They don’t listen to me.

Look at this idiot.

She is always so argumentative.

The world is ugly – how can’t you see that?

Does she truly need to drive such an expensive car?

He never gives me what I need.

I feel sorry for you and your ideas – what happened to you?

It is us against them – which side are you on?


Help me – I’m trapped …


We all fear.

We all hurt.

We are all searching.

This is all of us.

We are all one.

“The battle you are going through is not fueled by the words or actions of others; it is fueled by the mind that gives it importance.” – Shannon L. Adler

The Syrian’s face positively lit up. “I too love the mountains.”

“Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater”. George Washington Carver

Like most of you, I am not a politician and in no way shape or form making policy decisions on weighty matters such as admitting refugees into our country or how many to admit – Syrian or otherwise. It is just not up to me. The government of the day here in Canada, having been given a strong mandate will be proceed unfettered as they welcome Syrian refugees of the equivalent population size the likes of Bradford Ontario and Okotoks Alberta. So whether or not one is in favour of the initiative is inconsequential and the question for us is what are we to do if on the off chance we encounter a Syrian refugee? After all, many of us in our populace of 35 million have never met someone from Bradford or Okotoks – I would therefore wager most of us will not meet even one of our newcomers from Syria. But “what if” we did? How does the thought of that make you feel? a question often posed and I witnessed first hand by noted Hungarian – Canadian Physician Dr. Gabor Maté who strongly links mind and body health.

Some of us will be fearful of the possible albeit unlikely encounter. We suspiciously walk about with trepidation and our visual and auditory senses acutely attuned to markers of their proximity. I have not met a Syrian refugee – but in the summer of 2014 I met a Syrian student while we were both observing a rather vulgar Gaza War protest in Calgary – like all such protests I attended that summer and there were several, antagonists and supporters from both sides were often taunting the opposing side with rude and racially motivated invectives.

I decided to move out of direct fire and found a seat on a short cement wall a few metres away. Beside me were two young men of colour. I began a conversation with them about how crazy all this was. They smiled politely. I told them I was just visiting here on business and that I was Jewish but didn’t like these demonstrations. I extended my hand to them and introduced myself.

They each shook my hand; I noticed, however, reluctantly and cautiously.

I asked them how they came to be here.

They looked at each other. “We are friends with the Philistinia,” one said in a heavy Middle Eastern accent.

I asked if they were students; one said he was in a local college and the other was at university. I asked them where they were from. One from Somalia and the other, the one sitting beside me, was from Syria. The Syrian had spectacularly handsome features. I asked them how they liked studying in Calgary; they both nodded. It was very enjoyable, they said. I asked them if they have been able to do any travelling. They said yes, they went to the Kananaskis area.

“You like the mountains? I love them.”

The Syrian’s face positively lit up. “I too love the mountains.” We talked about how Canada’s mountains compared to Syria’s. His Somalian friend smiled and said that he found our mountains very big. “Beautiful but very big.”

“Too big?” I asked jokingly. “What about skiing?”

He put up his hands. “No. Not for me!” We all laughed.

We spoke some more about the mountains; we talked a bit about life in Canada. About their futures and what they wanted to do when they matriculated from university.

Finally it was time to go. I noticed the rally had broken up and mostly all that remained were a few stragglers who looked like they had no place better to go; some police officers lingered in small groups and some city workers showed up to carry away the barricades.

I said good-by to my young friends. We smiled warmly at one another and I noticed when we shook hands the grip was deliberate, firm and came with broad warm smiles. *

Did we solve anything – did war and terrorism end after our conversation? Of course not. But perhaps amongst the three of us we accomplished something – I will let you ponder what that might be … But it felt good.

* From Us versus Us. An Intimate Journey of Letters and Walls, by Stuart Lewis