The rabbis ask, ? הכונח יאמ, which means, what is Chanukah? Is this a holiday about commemorating a military victory? The miracle of the oil? Mordkhe Rivesman in his beautiful song “Oy Chanukah, Oy Chanukah” lets us know that Chanukah is “a yontif, a sheiner, a lustiger; a freilicher nito noch a zeyner.” Translation: “a holiday, a lovely one, a cheerful and happy one, there is no other like it.”
This is exactly what the world needs now, more cheer and happiness. This is the spirit of Chanukah. There is no year like 2020; … Even in the midst of the uncertainty, the suffering, the isolation, there is still joy.
This is the first Chanukah for my almost 6-month twin daughters. I also have a 3-year-old daughter. Seeing the lights dance in the eyes of my girls, … this is what I am looking forward to most this Chanukah. I also love teaching my oldest daughter the lyrics to this beautiful song and watching her twirl like a sivivon as she sings. Chanukah doesn’t get much better than this.
Chanukah is also about Jewish pride. During this holiday we prominently place our glowing chanukiyot in our windows facing the external world. The Chanukah menorah is a beautiful symbol, illuminating our communities with hope and warmth. Chanukah is part of our identity. The burning sting of hot oil jumping up and catching my forearms as I fry latkes, the ooey gooey jelly from the sufganiyot that somehow seems to get all over my daughter’s face and clothes, powdered sugar everywhere, chocolate gelt and little dreidels on our kitchen table. … I hope your home is filled with these similar Chanukah memories.
Jesse Charyn is the rabbi at Temple Beth David.