I have celebrated twenty Chanukahs in my lifetime, each one unique. I have stood against the glow of candles, lined brightly in their sockets with its and my reflection shades of shadow against the window. I have sung songs of Jewish perseverance in the face of endless and countless adversity with my family while lighting each wick. I have basked in the special pride of the holiday that celebrates community, devotion, spirituality, and bravery.
The story of Chanukah highlights the importance of spirituality in Judaism. Ancient Greek sovereignty in Israel introduced Olympian (pun intended) stress on physicality with sexuality, sports, and idolatry, excesses that are alien to the Jewish religion. The great tale of Chanukah is not only in the physical battle that regained governing rule of Israel but, more importantly, in the Jews’ spiritual battle to evade the temptation of Greek sensuality.
Watching the candles twinkling each Chanukah night, both from the inside of my home and outside the windows of the Jewish homes in my community, became a habit of mine over the years. Their great purity and meaning does not fail to astonish me each year. These light represents continuity of faith through generations, redemption of hope amid tragedy, and the spark of potential that begins small but grows greater and greater and greater if it just has what to burn. The holiday represents a need for worldly attributes, but a focus on something else. Something slightly less ephemeral, and much more important. A candle cannot burn without oil or a wick, but the point is the light that emanates, not what is flammable.
During this holiday season, while you’re slaving over stoves, decorating with lights, watching parades, getting on a plane. Whether packing gifts of eight, or under trees, try to remember that they are wicks, they are candles. They are the means we use to celebrate and give thanks for family, community, faith, and home. They are the sensuality meant to be used for purpose, not for its own sake. They are delicious, bright, warm reminders that things are things, and they are only more than just things when they are used as more than just things.
Happy and Holy holidays to everyone!
- Rebecca Najjar