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.