Hanukkah and a Case for Light

Without light, who are we? Without light, what can we grow? Hanukkah celebrates Light and where there is Light, darkness cannot be.

Go into your darkest, blackest room. Flip the switch and watch light flood the darkness. It fills space. Awaken from a bad dream and speak love and truth. Light is the thing.

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Hannukah comes in winter, sometimes in the dead of cold, in frosty wind, and in down jackets hung by the door. It is a hot mug of cider or a sweet glass of wine. It is for many people, the Jewish version of Christmas, but really, it is not so much about the presents. It’s all about the light and that glimmering, glistening oil. You’ll find me making donuts, too!

This is my post for a Hanukkah roundup (or Hannukah, Chanukah, you get the gist. It can be spelled differently since it is really just transcribed from the Hebrew language). Most years now I share something with Multicultural Kid Blogs. This year’s Festival of Lights post just happens to fall on Kristallnacht, Night of Broken Glass, when, for Jews in Nazi Germany, it was the night of their broken world which led to increased persecution, broken homes, businesses, synagogues, and to 30,000 men arrested and sent to concentration camps. You can see that this is not a post on merely gluing together blue and white popsicle sticks. It follows the attack on good, elderly people in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, simply worshipping in community on the Shabbat. Simply put, we need light. Hanukkah is right on time.

Hanukkah for Kids | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Welcome to our fourth annual Hanukkah for Kids blog hop! Be sure to visit all the participating blogs for creative ways to share this special time of year with kids. Plus you can find all these and more on our Hanukkah Pinterest board! (And don’t miss last year’s blog hop, 2016, and 2015!)

Chanukkah is about restoration and rededication. It is about cleansing what was destroyed out of fear and hate. Today, the eight-celebration cannot come soon enough. I crave light. I crave family time, good news on the TV, restored families, no more unstable people brandishing hate and guns.

Ready for the craft? I tried a little exercise. It only required some fruit and flowers. I found a black piece of felt, then made a design, closing the curtains and letting in only a little bit of natural light. What did I make? A menorah, basically the ancient emoji/logo, for our holiday.

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Using flowers and vegetables and everything good that grows.

See, the conditions do not have to be “right” to celebrate Hanukkah. The cocoa does not have to be in the cup, the potato pancake sizzling on brand new gorgeous, unchipped plates. A mom can be in need of gifts for her children.

The reality is that this holiday originated in extreme conditions– the deepest anti-semitism and all of the components to destroy our ethnic, cultural, and spiritual faith.

The ruler who came into power in 200 BC, in Judea/present-day Israel, was not interested in respecting differences or co-existing. King Antiochus, Seleucid King of Syria, outlawed Jewish religion and ordered all Jews to worship his Greek gods. He murdered thousands, then went on to utterly desecrate the holy Second Temple (THE temple). No one said this Jewish holiday stuff is only bagels and lox!

And yet, like many celebrations from the Bible/Torah, God moved and saved His people (“They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!”). The strong stepped up, led by Judah (son of the Priest, Mattathias) and his family and band of Jewish rebel warriors, the Maccabees. They acted with conviction, being a sure light in the darkness. Judah, the Macabbee, or Hammer in Hebrew, rose up to be a light in the darkness and restore what could be restored, starting with the Temple.

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During this Hanukkah season, when the Anti-defamation League has reported a massive spike in anti-semitic threats and incidents, I want change. I want flowers and happy families in synagogues, children not worried. I want restoration.

In one NPR article, George Selim, senior vice-president for the Anti-Defamation League, sites that 2017 carries a 60% increase in antisemitic hate crimes over the previous year. Students in k-12 classrooms nearly experienced a 90% increase of antisemitic incidents.

How do we, Jews, gentiles, families from all over the earth “be the light”? How do we drive out hate? What does it look like? Tell me what you do in the comments, please!

I am teaching my children that kindness is powerful, that Torah/every Word from God is powerful, that great Love knows no bounds, and that Righteousness, is better than things. I teach history and I expect change. I pray for it. I buy and grow flowers and try to smile more.

I thought of these artful takes on a menorah. Go to the local market with your kids and find the produce that most looks like candles, wicks, and flame. Use flowers, leaves, whatever natural, God-made things feel most beautiful. Fall leaves in their reds, oranges, and yellow splendor will work well!

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For me, Hanukkah is a return to goodness, to the simplicity of a steaming latke, to a dreidel game that reminds us, through all of the chocolate coins and laughter, that really, “A great miracle happened there.”

That Goodness trampled despair and malintent.

While we mourn tragedy, sickness, violence, guns, or votes that didn’t add up the way we hoped, a lasting peace can burn in us. We can build one another up in community. We can be the flickering, undying flame the world so needs.

For those who know the Hanukkah story, Judah, his family and community cut back the darkness to get back into their temple. There they found utter destruction. Garbage. A slaughtered pig in the Holiest place. Desecrated scrolls. Filth. They cleaned. They used their elbow grease, but Hashem/G-d, made it shine. The oil that was required to rekindle the Menorah lit and burning for the eight days of Sukkah was no longer there; the Roman soldiers had destroyed that, too. The blessing and joy (mitzvot, in Hebrew) of Sukkoth could not be fulfilled.

This is where the Miracle came in. That oil, that piddly amount of oil, squandered at the hands of those wanting to destroy us, was stretched! The oil lasted the full eight days, enough to finally celebrate the days of Sukkot they had been unable to observe. That scant oil must have seemed barely enough to last a single day. Maybe it looked barely enough to fill a thimble or go more than one hour.

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This year, Jewish families all over the world will light their menorahs, sing about the Miracle that happened, and light up the darkness with a light that grows ever stronger, adding a candle every night until the joy is complete at eight nights.

(May I add that the best photo, the one above, was created by my daughter). ❤

May every family on the earth experience more peace. May the figures of recorded hate diminish. And even if they don’t, may we know deep in our hearts that the Darkness will not always win. The Light will one day ever shine. Tears will be wiped away for good. I believe in the restoration of Hanukkah, the greatest Tikkun Olam, the Jewish phrase referring to the restoration of the entire world.

It is in the “until then”, that we must beat back the darkness.

Light the candles, invite new friends to share in your meal and feel the truth of a great miracle there and here. Maybe you’ll want to try this, too. All you need is some light, some bits of fruit or flowers, and a bit of black paper. Make a collaborative menorah or keep it solo! Use your light to illuminate the darkest corners.

Participating Blogs

All Done Monkey on Multicultural Kid Blogs: The Ultimate List of Hanukkah Crafts for Kids
Moms & Crafters
Kori at Home
Melibelle in Tokyo
Coffee and Carpool: 8 Days of Hanukkah Kindness Activities
Mommy Evolution
Juggling with Kids: Personalized Dreidel Gifts

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