Every cubic inch of space is a miracle."
~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Ok, so heres the scoop- a long time ago, a band of brothers got their people together and beat their oppressors so they could take back their place of worship. And when the one ritual that was supposed to happen continuously proved to be impossible, a miracle happened, and gave us Jewish kids something so big to celebrate, that it needed eight nights.
I'm not going to recount the entire story of Chanukah here- the synopsis above is the best you're gonna get. (If you want more, google it). But I am going to talk about it. Because since Tuesday night, my people have been partying it up with Potato Latkes, driedles, gelt, and gifts. It's a good time of year to be alive.
This year, I think I've grown up a bit- I'm finding the "getting" part of the holiday far less exciting than the giving. I pride myself on knowing what I'm looking for, and how to get it (thank you, internet) before it's time to hand it over to those it was intended for. I'm loving the look of surprise and delight when people find something they wanted, even if they didn't know they wanted it, has made it's way into their lives. I like the feeling of knowing I got it right, and someone is very happy with what I've given them.
But that's not the best part.
If you've never played driedle, give it a try sometime. It's a four sided top, and whether it's for quarters, swedish fish, christmas mints, or the chocolate coins that we love so much, it's my favorite kind of gambling. The game relies on getting the right hebrew letter, and I've played hours of it with my family and friends. It's basically a bonding tool- less lengthy than monopoly, but just as intense.
By that's the most exciting commedity.
Chanukah has three distinct blessings- two that run for all eight nights, and one that happens only on the first night. These blessings thank and exalt God for giving us light, and for giving us reason to celebrate. They are sung to a beautiful melody, but in my family, we sing them in our own traditional way. We really get into it, emulating my father's tone deaf nature with vigor and love.
By that isn't my favorite part.
My favorite part, the best of the holiday, the excitement, for me, is the focus on miracles. See, Chanukah, when the presents and the games and the blessings are put away, is about miracles. About one where a lamp stayed lit much longer than it should have. About another where a rag-tag group of people who just wanted to worship become victorious. About a miraculous promise of a Messiah- one who was to come to be the ultimate light of the world for the Jewish people. (Somewhat ironically, that last one is the major miracle of Christmas for most Christians.)
Sometimes you get to see a father and his daughter, reunited after years of not speaking. And every now and then, a solider, or a patient, is released and gets to go home for the first time in a long time. And more than once, I've seen someone whose in too much debt to ever get out make their bills because of the generosity of a third party.
Chanukah, for me, always feels like a beginning. It comes around New Years, when the air is awake with resolutions and starts. The families all send cards and get together, and there's talk of seeing one another now more then before. And the practical gifts, (like the socks and the pjs) are new and fresh and ready to be worn down.
And this year, I'm seeing the beginning of a year of miracles. Things beyond my imagination are going to happen in the coming months- I can feel it. I can see it- it's already started. And I'm excited about what it might mean for this coming time.
Over 2000 years ago, a bunch of Jewish guys stood up for what they believed in, and today, we get to celebrate their victory. I wonder what kind of miracles will happen in 2012. And which ones I will be there to witness and feel, and even be part of.
And which ones will still be celebrated long after I'm a memory, because some miracles are always worth celebrating.