Hanukkah’s Light in Darkness: Appreciating the most unlikely holiday miracles

We have four kids, and they fight like crazy.

Let me amend that. They fight like kids. Except during Hanukkah.

Last year, they each got a few hundred dollars in gifts from aunts, Grandma, and others. To my wife’s and my amazement, they spent every dime — on each other.

They figured out what the others wanted, went online, and bought it.

It blew our minds.

It was like one of those holiday truces you sometimes see in wartime — soldiers crossing the DMZ to give each other chocolate bars and packs of cigarettes, and then it’s back to war the next day.

This year, our kids have been shopping again. I’m seeing a lot of email from Amazon. It’s a beautiful thing.

My understanding of mental health is the ability to look beyond one’s own needs and emotions and understand and seek to meet, in responsible ways, the needs of others. It’s very gratifying to witness this firsthand in one’s children.

Parenting is a very strange business. There are tons of books, but no real manuals. There are no objective metrics.

All you get are moments when you have the vague sense that what you’re doing might just be working.

Hanukkah last year was such a moment, and this year is shaping up to be another.

Sure, they’ll go back to fighting. But in the glow of the Hanukkah candles, peace reigns, however briefly.

One thing that makes this Hanukkah different from other years is what’s happening right now in France. The French government has informed the Jewish community that there are to be no public celebrations of Hanukkah this year. No public menorah lightings. They’re just too much of a target.


Hanukkah celebrates the triumph of the few over the many, the Maccabean priestly family retaking Jerusalem’s Holy Temple from the Hasmonean Greeks. Right triumphing over might.

This year, it seems as if the story is backward.

A small group of people with evil intent have essentially stolen the holiday from Jewish people in Paris.

At Hanukkah time, one of the mitzvot, or commandments, is to publicize the miracle of the few over the many, of right over might. For this reason, many communities around the world have public menorah lightings, from the White House to the Kremlin. And families place their menorahs in their front windows to publicize the miracle that took place two millennia ago.

This year, in our family, we’ll light an extra candle each night, on a separate candelabra, so it’s not confused with the traditional Hanukkah lights.

That extra candle will be a prayer for the residents of France, Jews and non-Jews alike, and peace-loving people all over the world, that the spate of violence abates.

Today, that just might be the biggest miracle of all.

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