A critical time for Hanukkah's timeless questions
Hanukkah 2010 begins Wednesday night, December 1st. As Americans celebrate Hanukkah 5771 on the Jewish calendar, we also begin to wind up the first decade of the 21st century, and what a decade it has been. We went to war and remains so to this day. Israel and the Palestinians are still unable (unwilling? lack the desire) to make peace. The economy, both at home and in most of the developed world, is still shaky, with most of us wondering exactly how close we came to another Great Depression, and some still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It feels that with every passing day of the last decade, our personal lives, like the Hanukkah top known as a dreidel, spun faster and faster. That's the world of Hanukkah 5771, one which needs Hanukkah and the opportunity it provides ─ to remember, reconnect, and renew.
On Hanukkah we remember that we have it within us to play the game of life as much as the game plays us. We reconnect to the source of that ability, even through the foods we eat.
The greasy latkes (potato pancakes) and doughnuts associated with the holiday recall the oil which burned longer and brighter in the newly rededicated Temple menorah than anyone expected that they would or could. When we eat those latkes and doughnuts, we not only remember that story but also become vessels of the oil that we recall.
As we eat, we remind ourselves that it is within us to move ourselves and our world forward into the next decade in wonderful new ways, ways that will shine more brightly and with greater durability than we often allow ourselves to imagine. Just like the little cruse of oil found in the Temple, we need to see ourselves and each other as having more potential and power than we often remember.
When Franz Rosenzweig spoke at the opening of the Judische Lehrhaus (adult Jewish learning cooperative) in 1920, he spoke of the birth of a new Jewish learning, one in which we would discover and create new sacred texts which would be both the product of our lives and in turn, enrich our lives. He recognized that the wisdom of a people is found not only in its holy books, but in the books of people's lives which would become holy - perhaps even in its recipe books which carry the tastes and traditions of our families, both immediate and global.
While I don't know what Rosenzweig ate on Hanukkah, I am quite certain that he would have appreciated that latkes and doughnuts are not just about the past, that they are also pointers toward our ability to renew ourselves, each other, and the world. Making and eating them are not simply some quaint tradition, but a practice which helps us enter a new decade of Jewish and American life by reminding us that we have it within us to do so.
As you indulge in these holiday treats, pass the napkins and also take a moment to consider your own responses to the following questions, either all at once, or one for each delicious night of the holiday.
1. Where in your life could you use a little more light, enlightenment or energy?
2. Where have you found what you needed in the past and what made it work for you?
3. Where, what or to who could you look now to find what you need?
4. How could you tap into the energy within yourself and others more effectively?
5. To whose life could you contribute a little more light, enlightenment or energy?
6. When have you felt connected to your own ability to direct your own life and contribute to the lives of others?
7. What gift lies within you that you would like to use more fully or share more with others?
8. What goal will you pursue between this Hanukkah and the next one, trusting that the pursuit itself will bring rewards not yet even imagined?
Having lived through a decade at least as challenging as our own, the original Hanukkah heroes, the Maccabees, and all those who stood with them centuries ago, answered these kinds of questions and made miracles happen. In answering these questions for ourselves, we will rediscover who we really are and how much capacity we truly possess, to renew ourselves, our nation, and the fast-turning world in which we live.
Posted by: FarnazMansouri2 | November 29, 2010 10:43 PM
Report Offensive Comment
Posted by: crazylegs1951 | November 29, 2010 10:41 AM
Report Offensive Comment