Chanukah is one of the most exciting Jewish holidays for me. It is unique in that it does not disrupt the work week, but brings excitement and fun to the mundane. We light one candle each night of Chanukah and shower friends and family with gifts. We have parties and yummy food including potato latkes and donuts!
I even arrange a "secret Chanukah friend" at work--sort of like a secret Santa where we secretly give gifts to our coworkers and then reveal ourselves on the last day. I bought a bunch of little gifts for my children and plan to give them something small on each night. We also have 4 parties scheduled already including one at our shul (synagogue), 2 family gatherings, and a kids only party.
Aside from all the excitement of the 8-day holiday, there are also many lessons that we learn from the story.
- Before the Jews lost the Holy Temple, the last major way to directly connect with G-d, He gave us a miracle of lights. The oil that was supposed to burn for 1 day lasted 8 days! G-d gave His people a special light to carry through the generations of darkness, throughout all the troubled times, throughout the years of distance from G-d Himself. He told the Jews to hold on to the light and remember the miracle. The menorah has thus remained the symbol of Jewish continuity and Jewish survival. We can stay connected and know that G-d is with us even when it's dark! This is also why ChanukFah is celebrated in the winter, during the cold and dark months. When we light the candles, we bring warmth back into our homes.
- Dreidels (tops) seem like a silly symbol, commemorating a cute game that children used to play while hiding in caves at the time when the story took place. In fact, the Jewish children were disguising their Torah study by playing tops in front of the Greek enemy who did not allow them to study. Children were a major part of the story, defending their right to learn and to carry our rich heritage to the next generation. I am proud to say that I am passing these lessons along to my own children, teaching them about dreidels and Chanukah, and more importantly, about living the everyday life of a Jew- learning Torah and doing mitzvos (good deeds). No matter where we are and who might be fighting against us, we will continue to maintain our religious principles.
- Chanukah is a time of giving. We give gifts, gelt (money), and share with family and friends. As much as we like to receive, it is giving the defines who we are.
- Sometimes in life it is important to take a break and spend time with one another. During the hectic hours of dinner, bedtime, and bathtime (if the kids are lucky!), we stop to acknowledge the miracles we have and give thanks that we have them.