This is the darkest time of the year when rays of sunlight are fleeting and many of us, me included, double up on our dose of vitamin D. Fortunately, these potentially gloomy days are brightened by the traditions of the holiday season.
It is important to recognize that for some, this is a very stressful time of the year. Everything involved with celebrating this season can be incredibly overwhelming and cause severe anxiety. If we peel away the season’s hoopla, at its core, we see that our holiday of Chanukah has the potential to bring us joy and brightness, in the darkest of times.
The Chanukah story, and the celebration that surround the holiday, are those of miracles and traditions. Without detailing too much of the Chanukah story, in short, we recall that Greeks ransacked the Jewish temple and destroyed everything, leaving only enough oil for the eternal light to burn for one day. Miraculously the oil lasted eight days and therefore we celebrate Chanukah for eight days and eat foods fried in oil.
The miracle though goes far beyond the oil and fried anything. The oil that produced the light is a symbol of hope in the darkest of times. The light of the holiday reminds us, implores us, to remember that we do not have the luxury to give up on the dream of miracles. I believe that if we look closely, around us every day, we may see miracles, large and small.
More importantly though than the miracles that we see, are the miracles that we have the ability to create. Each day, we have the opportunity to do something that potentially could be miraculous for someone else. There are those moments when we are in the right place at the right time and there are other times when we are there because it is the right thing to do. Both can be life altering moments.
If we think hard enough, during these dark and sometimes depressing days, each day of Chanukah and all of the other days of the year, we can find and make miracles of all sizes. Sometimes they are easy to spot and at other times, ephemeral. We cannot diminish that through our Jewish communal work we make miracles happen in Rochester, Israel and around the globe for the communities and people we support. We make miracles for families wanting to connect with their Jewish roots, for seniors in need of help and support, for people who are cold and hungry when we provide food, clothing and resources for heat. There are many more examples.
On each of the eight nights of Chanukah, I encourage you, as you light your menorahs, to talk about a modern day miracle in your lives for which you are grateful. It could be one you have created or one from which you benefitted. Expressing gratitude for the miracles around us will serve to lighten our lives, well beyond the beautiful light of the menorah. It is well documented that expressing gratitude every day is one of the surest ways to stay content. I will be doing this with my family this year and will add it to our family Chanukah tradition.
Speaking of tradition, holiday traditions also serve to bring great joy to our family celebrations. One of our family’s traditions is to cook my grandma’s potato latkes. Please feel free to use her recipe below! I am sure yours are great too, but I have been told these are the best.
May these dark days of winter be bright through the holidays for you and your family and may this Chanukah serve to inspire all of us to continue to work on making miracles together. I wish you a very happy, bright and miraculous Chanukah.
Shabbat Shalom -
Meredith Dragon, CEO