Monday, December 21, 2009

Chanukah and Living in the Light

 Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is the celebration of the first battle that was fought over religious freedom.  Over twenty-one centuries ago, the Jewish people living in Greece were being forced to forgo their religion by the ruling emperor.  Although the Jewish population was small in number, there was a group of Jews who decided to battle against the Greek army in order to defend the rights of their people to worship only one God.  The story is told that the very small band of Jewish warriors were able to defeat the large Greek forces, thereby taking back their rights to observe their own religion.  After the Jews won the war, they needed to rededicate the Temple and make it holy for worship, again.  The problem was that they only had enough oil to keep the Temple lit for one day.  They needed much more than that. The oil ended up lasting for eight days, allowing enough time for the Temple to be rebuilt.  Thus, a miracle had occurred.

The reason that we celebrate Chanukah for eight days is to commemorate the miracle which occurred during ancient times.  Chanukah is a celebration of the battle of good over evil, a few against many, light against darkness.  It is a time when friends and family get together to spend time with one another.  Conversely to what most people believe, Chanukah is not one of the main holidays in Judaism.  It has only become more emphasized to keep up with the elaborate gift-giving and decorating traditions of Christmas.  It is a lovely holiday, but it is a minor one, according to Jewish custom.  It is not the Jewish Christmas.  Sadly, for a holiday that is meant to rekindle the importance of religious freedom, Chanukah has become a way for many Jews to assimilate into society by overemphasizing the gift-giving and more commercial aspects of the holiday.  It is customary to give small gifts on each night of Chanukah when the Menorah(the candle holder) is lit.  There is, however, no such thing as a Chanukah bush.

This year, we shared Chanukah with many friends and family members.  We always enjoy introducing the holiday to those whom have never celebrated it before.  Most of my Angel Daughter's friends are Christian, but they really enjoy coming over to our house to light the Menorah.  The middle candle is called the Shamesh.  It is the "helper candle".  Its purpose is to light the other candles on each successive night.  That is why you will always find nine candles on a Menorah.  The Shamesh, or helper candle, is always raised.  There are many reasons for this, but my favorite reason is that helping others is what brings us closer to God.  When we help someone else's light shine, we are doing one of the greatest things that we can do.  We are bringing even more light into a world which is sometimes very dark.

This picture was taken on the eighth night of Chanukah.  Our dear friend, Chy, lit the candles for us.  I love the looks on the girls faces.  Precious.

Angel Daughter Number One was able to come home from Los Angeles to celebrate the first night of Chanukah.  It is getting harder and harder for us all to get together at the same time.  Good thing there are eight nights!  Angel Daughter Number Three's boyfriend, Jacob(who looks very handsome in his firefighting uniform), enjoyed his first Chanukah with us.

Angel Daughter Number Two brought her devil-kitty, Rex, home for her winter break.  Jacob thought that he could include Rex in a nice picture of him and AD3.  Oops!

On the seventh night of Chanukah, all four of my Angel Daughters and their boyfriends were home for dinner.  We also invited my Mother and her husband.  It was nice for the girls to have their grandparents there.

There is so much to celebrate in life, so much to be grateful for.  As my family concludes this celebration of Chanukah, I am reminded that there is still a battle that I must fight. Because as bright as the lights are throughout my days, there are two little lights which are still missing(although they will always burn brightly within my heart).  And the love that we feel for them...The connection that we will always have with them cannot be extinguished by anger, fear or hate.  My prayer is that next Chanukah, we will all be together, as we always have been.  My prayer is that my beloved brother will pull whatever strings he can from where he is, to ensure that this tug-of-war with my sister-in-law will end soon.  My prayer is that next year, this story will have an ending similar to that of the Chanukah story.  Good over bad, light overshadowing darkness, love eclipsing hate.  The miracles of everyday life.  My prayer...

11 comments:

jen said...

i was going to say i hope those boys know how lucky they are to be a part of any family experience/gathering you have, but something tells me they already know it. gorgeous family, debra. thank you for sharing your celebration of Chanukah with us!!!

jojo said...

my prayer for you as well.

Laura Hegfield said...

Such joyful images Deb! May your prayer be answered with a resounding YES! May your two little nieces join the rest of you and celebrate their birthright in the loving embrace of family.

b'shalom,
laura

Bogart in P Towne said...

Beautiful.

chandelier magic - beach house said...

Hi -
Beautiful daughters, beautiful menorahs, beautiful way you're all together to celebrate and I agree with jen - those guys know a great family!

Thank you so much for your great comment - I like you too. You're writing touches me in so many ways, mostly about your brother, mother, and how much you love your husband and daughters.

Happy New Year - let's toast with some good ole Manishevitz (sp?) wine -

La Chayim -

Marfsha

Marsha

Poetikat said...

My best wishes to you and your family for a very Happy and Blessed Chanukah!

Kat

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Debbie,
Once again I wish you all the best...to you and your beautiful family. I hope that your two nieces will be able to spend time with you and your family very soon.
Thanks for sharing this and I am wishing you all a happy Chanukah

Des said...

Great post. I hope that you and your family have a very happy Chanukah and new year.

miruspeg said...

Beautiful images Deb and a delighful post to read.
May your prayers be answered that next Chanukah your WHOLE family will be together especially including your beloved brothers nieces.
I believe in miracles.
Namaste
Peggy

Laura ~Peach~ said...

so totally cool and love that you shared it with us... and as always i am days behind! HUGS and merry christmas :)

Sunshine said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family.... Lots of love

Sabi

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