The first day of Hanukah finished at sundown this evening. I spent the day, amusingly enough, doing Christmas shopping. I suppose I'm easily amused, but I thought this was quite funny.
Last night, we went to church to celebrate Hanukah together, and light the first candle. It's the first time I've truly celebrated Hanukah, and not just paid it lip service. I should say, this year I am observing Hanukah, as opposed to just enjoying the celebratory aspects. It's interesting, and very different. It's really a very minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, and got pumped up so much only because it's opposite Christmas and Kwanzaa and all those other winter holidays. Like many of the Jewish holy days, the short version of the celebration goes like this: we were persecuted, G-d saved us, let's eat! I have a Jewish friend who always answers with that quote when I ask questions about Jewish holy days.
As a part of my exploration of Judaism this month for seminary, I am engaging in an eight day meditation series entitled "Miracle Meditations for Hanukah" by Rabbi Debra Orenstein. Her suggestion for the first day is to consider, "What are the miracles in the 'facts' and 'entitlements' and 'normal' progress of my daily existence?"
While I went about my day, I did just that. I thought about the daily miracles... the mundane miracles. I thought about how completely amazing it is that my daughter still has this wonderful, amazing, fantastic relationship with me despite being thousands of miles away with a person who hates me and poisons everyone against me. I pondered the fact that I am in a family that is unique and suits me perfectly and loves me for who I am, and who I am becoming. I contemplated the joy I have experienced so far in my seminary journey. I took time to say a prayer of thanks for having a friend and mentor in Pastor Alison, and for having a church that has accepted me in all my oddness. Above all, I thought with great joy on the fact that, though we may not have much money, we have enough and besides, our freezers are full of good food raised by our own hands, the garden still yields kale and cabbage despite the snow, and we have a basement full of wood that will keep us warm and cozy this winter.
These are my daily, mundane miracles.
Tonight, just after dinner, we lit the second candle on our Hanukia, our Hanukah menorah. I told the children the second part of the story about the Greeks defiling the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, and how the Macabees won it back through sheer tenacity and guerilla warfare. I did take the time to explain that Antiochus wasn't exactly a prime example of the happy Hellene, and that other Greeks didn't think much of him for persecuting the Jews the way he did. I managed to get the girltwin to participate in the Hebrew prayers over the candles, too, and she did a great job.