Life just seems to be more and more complicated as the world “advances”. Especially we Israelis are trying very hard all the time to be the most innovative, the most advanced, and the ones who think of the new, cutting-edge idea first. Tonight, we began celebrating the holiday of Chanukah and there are eight days stretched before us of frenetic activity – evening meetings with friends and family to light the chanukiyah, cooking latkes (and not just the plain old kind – already tonight our friends made some combination of potatoes, leeks, peas, and some unidentifiable spices), a deluge of doughnuts from bakeries all over the city (I don’t pretend to know how to prepare them myself), Chanukah gelt in all colors and flavors, and endless events and performances to enjoy.
I already see my family seeking the simpler path to enjoy the holiday – my husband loves only the original jelly doughnuts, our favorite chanukiyah was made in pre-school from recycled materials found on the street, and our favorite latkes are plain old potato with apple sauce.
And I also think that it’s unnecessary to complicate things in trying to derive meaning for ourselves from the holiday. I’m always seeking things that not only I can apply to my daily life, but also my atheist husband and my five-year-old son (we won’t put too much on our 2-year-old daughter who’s just asserting her independence to dress herself in the morning!). I think that you shouldn’t have to find more than the simple words which normal people can understand in order to fulfill what I believe is the true purpose of all of our holidays: To be happy. And when we talk about happiness, we also mean to be concerned also with the happiness of others.
Of all the topics that are a part of Chanukah, we decided to focus on the centrality of light. The midrash tells of the first Adam who was afraid when he saw that the days got shorter as winter approached, and when he saw that the days got longer again, he made an eight-day holiday. We celebrate the miracle of the oil that created light that lasted for eight days. And the rabbinic School of Hillel taught in the Talmud that we add a candle every night in order to “increase in holiness.”
We sat as a family and we formulated together a list of eight things – one for each day – for how we can make more light in the world. And here they are:
1. Wherever you are – whether at work or at school – work hard to do what you need to be doing/learning.
2. Help someone else with something
3. Donate some money to tzedakah
4. Give someone a compliment that you don’t usually speak to
5. Tell a joke
6. Host friends at home for lighting the candles together
7. Write a new song about Chanukah
8. Try something new
May it be that when we sanctify and bless the Chanukah candles, we ourselves will be sanctified and blessed; when we increase the light in the world, the light within us grows as well; and when we renew our days, we will be renewed as well.
Happy Festival of Lights!