What Counts, a "Light" hearted Hanukkah Story
Just returned to Tel Aviv from a 30 day trip to the US. I visited 8 cities with 9 flights, 6 hotels and 3 homes, and celebrated 1 Bat Mitzvah, 1 birthday party, 1 wedding, 1 Hanukkah-Thanksgiving dinner. I took 4 PCR tests, 1 rapid test, suffered and recovered from 1 head cold, and still navigating one pandemic.
One super fun pink cowgirl Bat Mitzvah
One inspired airplane sunset
One wild animal 6th birthday party
One really big wedding Chuppah
I visited with 65 cousins, 7 aunts, 6 uncles, 1 great uncle, 1 94 year old grandmother, 2 parents, 2 parents-in-law, 3 sisters-in-law, 3 brothers-in-law, 3 nieces, 2 nephews, 1 great niece, 1 great nephew, and several dear friends. But who's counting?
Only one one-of-a-kind grandma GG
One uncle who also happens to double as a cousin
2 lifelong friends
One thirteen year old lighting Hanukkah candles
Tonight is the sixth night of Hanukkah, and we will add 6 candles to our Hanukkiah (menorah) and burn them using the lighting candle, the shamash. Yesterday we burned 5, plus the shamash, and tomorrow we will burn 7+1. We will add and relight all candles for 8 days, for a total of 44 candles (if I counted right), as we have for about 2000 years, since the scholar Hillel had the idea in the first century. Let’s assume half of the estimated 14.7 Jewish people in the world lit a menorah for 8 days. That would be 323,400,000 candles lit this Hanukkah alone!
We are lighting to remember the 8 day rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabean Jews around the 2nd century BCE. It is not important during Hanukkah to focus on the later history where the Temple was destroyed again, and still does not exist. Rather, we rekindle the miracle that was. Each night our faces glow with candlelight that only burns a short while. We do this again and again, night after night, until the next year. Those Maccabeans will never know how many people and how many candles it would take to celebrate their single victory!
One fourteen and a half year old lighting candles
There is something to the temporariness of this whole tradition that inspires me. One might think the rededication of the Holy Temple would be the centerpoint of this traditional holiday, but given that the Temple no longer exists, it’s clearly not. There is something we rekindle that is more important. On this first Hanukkah since my brother, Josh, (of blessed memory) passed, it makes me think that though he only lived 48 years and 21 days, his death is not what matters. Josh had 1 amazing life, 1 loving marriage, 2 healthy and bright children, 1 devoted sister (that’s me!), the best parents in the world, countless friends, family, and loved ones. Josh had relationships that extended and extended and extended. His days were numbered, but they sure were full.
Maybe victory itself isn’t the point either, what is won in battle can be lost, but we continue to celebrate and light anyway. Maybe it’s simply the love in the glow, and the memory of the burn that we rekindle over and over. Merging past and future into a fleeting, dancing flame that shines on us now, making this moment count.
May we all burn bright this holiday season.