In my last post, I spoke about the uncomfortable reality of being a non-Christian in a country that mistakenly believes its religious identity (which doesn’t exist) is synonymous with its civic identity. I also alluded to a conversation with a friend who assumed Chanukah is a much bigger deal than it is–but instead of making my misconception corrections then, I decided to make them their own post.
Some may say I’m blowing this out of proportion, but probably I’m not: I feel like the material world has stolen Chanukah. Picked it up in a big red bag, slung it over its shoulder, and made off on a sleigh drawn by a dog with one antler. It makes me lax to light candles, eat latkes, even spin the dreidle.
About a year and a half ago, right after Amendment 1 passed, I wrote about walking through Walmart hand-in-hand with my boyfriend at the time and the woman who changed everything–who was, in that brief moment between aisles, the unending image of hope.
It’s ironic how life, the year turned by, returns us to where we began–wholly changed, mind you, but wholly the same.
Imagine two cooks deep in the kitchen, working so closely it’s like they’re cooking hand-in-hand. Now shut yours eyes for a second and think about all the moments that come to mind.
For me, it’s a lot of time in front of the TV. Food Network is a favorite of my family’s, and we often spend our time watching shows like Chopped and Food Network Star together–and we’d probably cook together, if our kitchen could hold us. At the moment, it can’t.
Think deeper. Think back to the moments growing up when the kitchen was alive with the heartbeat of working hands and the warmth of the oven overflowing. What do you see? What aromas fill your lungs?
I wrote this the other day and figured it was too mentally askew to be worth posting. I was in a bad place–stressed by finals, consumed by philosophy–and strange things happen in dark corners on bright days, you know? So I’ve been thinking about it anyways, and since I’ve had some more time to consider it, to reflect on it, I’ve found there’s actually some merit in it after all.
So with no further ado, I present to you “Dancing Fire”:
I like to use different color Chanukah candles. One color might look nice and traditional, but two colors add more options–in fact, on the last night, using just two colors of candles, there are more than five hundred ways to arrange them! The possible patterns are overwhelming, and just imagine how much more endless they are considering there are more than two colors available and no two nights have the same number to arrange!
A little diversity makes the light shine brighter, doesn’t it? Some days I don’t think people realize how much small differences can make.
Tonight begins Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, the commemoration of the rededication of the Temple hundreds of years ago. Normally I would light candles and celebrate with my family, but tonight that’s impossible: I’m still on campus, hung between finals, and candle-lighting isn’t exactly allowed in the dorms. (I’ve got a friend bringing me his lighter, and then I’ll at least light the candles outside.)
Since it’s been a long time since I’ve last lit any candles, and since it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything about the Pirkei Avot, I figured tonight would be the prime time to reprise both.
This time nine years ago, the world was a different place. I was a different man. I was hardly a man at all; I was still a boy, draped in juvenile dreams, believed of a world that didn’t exist, or instead existed beneath the tide of the world we lived in. Mythologies were ripening inside me, thousands of stories stirring, yearning to get out.
It was somehow pristine, yet thoroughly in the dark.
There’s a controversial Christmas song that I just love: Lady Gaga’s Christmas Tree. Full of rabid innuendo and a pop/rock beat, I just can’t get enough of it. It’s also a stark contrast to the radio hits they must forget as soon as the songs roll over (for why else would they play them three and four times an hour, when such amazing new music has been crafted, such as Enya’s “And Winter Came…” or the Hotel Cafe Presents Winter Songs?), and as a vehement oppositionist of Christmas (remember last year?), I appreciate the change in tunes.
In any case, it’s pretty obvious what I must be thankful for today, isn’t it? Grudgingly or not, today I’m thankful for giving.
A long, long, long long long time ago (approximately 2176 years to be precise), there was a man named Judah HaMaccabee. Judah the Hammer. How quaint, you know? He led the Maccabean revolt against the Syrian-Greeks and with his small army, a miracle occurred and this band of Jews became victorious over their oppressors. The Temple was salvaged, cleansed, purified, rededicated–in fact, that’s how Chanukah gets its name! “Chanukah” literally means “dedication.” Thus the holiday began. Long before presents. Long before vague attempts to Chrismastize the holiday. Long before commercialization could be considered.
Something special happened then. Something inconceivable in today’s world.