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Posts Tagged ‘Hanukkah’

Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. and since the Grands are on the road for a well-needed weekend getaway, we’ll probably have a quiet evening with the Crown on Netflix. Later, I’ll light up all eight candles in our kitschy, electric Menorah, an artifact of the 70s. Steven Fine, an author and director of the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies, has a special interest in the symbolism of menorahs:

Becoming not only Judaism’s oldest symbol, but also the Western world’s oldest continuously used religious symbol, the menorah once stood in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. The seven-branched candelabrum (nine-branched for Hanukkah) has been a source of fascination and illumination for Jews, Samaritans, Christians and also Freemasons for three millennia.

I love menorahs and I love light and I love objects and I love text, and they all have to go together to get me really excited. And when they do, its really almost a moment of revelation.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/7-facts-about-menorahs-the-most-enduring-symbol-of-the-jewish-people/

I love my menorah too! Yes, there are nine branches and only eight nights, but that’s because one special, usually taller candle is used to light all the others – called the “shamash;” I remember because when pronounced a bit differently, it means James in Irish!

Our holiday cards are in the mail and we’re all masked up! In fact, the Groom is in his Covid ICU space suit. In a year of dramatic differences, I’ve noticed my friends are all doing the holiday season a little differently. Some have opted not to put up a Christmas tree at all, or they’ve replaced the big one for a smaller version. Others have gone all out with outside lights and blow-up snowmen. I used to find a small fir tree at Whole Foods for the Groom to put up, since my daughter always worked that day like her Dad, and I knew he’d need a little Christmas when the Grands were babies.

Last weekend, he and the Bug picked out a similar, smaller tree and decorated it with many of those original tiny, wooden, non-denominational ornaments, but she has put in her order for a bigger conifer next year! So, this is their last baby tree I guess.

It’s almost a “laissez faire” kind of holiday season. It’s as if we’ve all adopted a communal policy of non-interference in private conduct and individual freedom – and/or governmental affairs. It literally means to “allow to act,” or if laissez faire were a song, “Let It Be” would come to mind. Some people think the virus is a hoax so they refuse to wear masks, well I refuse to hold onto my anger anymore. If they want to go to Costco showing their face, great, I’ll get a Shipt order. Or, Mr T is still ranting and raving about a rigged election? That’s nice, it doesn’t bother me.

You’re not baking a bunch of cookies this year? That’s just fine, you do you! I made almost 50 mini-pumpkin muffins yesterday simply because the Love Bug gave me a bottle of pumpkin spice blend! Maybe I’m just tired of the political and personal chaos. I feel that whatever gets us through this year is good; I never actually Marie Kondoed my closets… even though every day I woke up thinking, “This will be the day!”

Today was the day I wanted to call Great Grandma Ada. The Bride got her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine this afternoon! She found out she received a placebo in the Moderna study. Yesterday her shift in the ER was filled with Covid patients. I wanted to cry, with happiness, with relief. I can see the light in the darkness, I can believe in miracles. The Groom will receive his vaccine at Vandy on Monday. Better it couldn’t be.

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The 2020 holiday season is about to get weirder. For instance, last night was the first night of Hanukkah and I almost forgot about it! It felt like I was just recovering from Thanksgiving. The laundry was done along with the turkey and scrumptious leftover sides . The garden area returned to its normal seating arrangements, and Bob replaced the fire pit’s can of propane. And last Sunday, just before popping on a plane back to LA, Aunt Kiki performed a little wizardry on my holiday card! Shhh, it’s a secret.

Then just as the Groom begins his shift in the Covid ICU, and we are all going back to being a socially-distanced-outside pod, which is our “normal” for the year, and the kiddos are back in school, the Bride lets me know that Hanukkah is coming right up. I know Jewish festivals fall on a lunar calendar, but come on, just a few days after Thanksgiving weekend? In years past, I would take each Grandchild on a separate trip to Nordstrom; we’d listen to the live piano music, have lunch and pick out something special to wear. One year it was a pair of Ugg boots.

We would also all visit Phillips Toy Mart, a family owned specialty toy store in Nashville for over 70 years. We’d watch the model trains steaming around their quaint tiny villages, and pet whatever animals were visiting, and then they could each pick out one toy. Another day would find us at another local shop in our Hanukkah tradition – Parnassus Books. And I must admit, I’d buy them whatever books they wanted. Remember, we have EIGHT crazy nights of lights and gifts for children. My trips with the Love Bug and L’il Pumpkin only covered three nights, I had five (well 10 counting 2 Grands) gifts to find yet!

This year I quickly found some books online for curbside pick-up at https://www.parnassusbooks.net/ but I still miss meandering in our famous book shop. The Bug likes mystery now, and my little guy prefers ninjas. We’ve been avoiding the mall, so I had to pull up my account at the evil empire of Amazon. Only one gift has arrived so far, a game called “Invasion of the Cow Snatchers,” it’s a magnet maze logic puzzle and thank goodness it was next day delivery! Think magnets and hilarity – “You’re the pilot of a flying saucer, sent to Earth to capture cows for scientific study. You have to negotiate your way around and over numerous obstacles — a grain silo, barn walls, crops, fences, and hay bale — to get the bovines onboard.” 

I told the Grands it was a “family” present for the first night, and since I had a huge bag of M&Ms ready to play the dreidel game after latkes, they were happy as clams. I thought of Ada while frying latkes, she gave me the recipe, but I’d barely ever made them because she always did. Yesterday it was 70 degrees! The Bride brought the children over early, since the Groom sometimes doesn’t return home until after they are in bed. He’s been working 15-16 hour days, and taking phone calls all night, he forgets to eat. The Bride has been smart to take his ICU shifts off, she will return to the ER next week.

Last night we sat distanced outside to light the first candle. We won’t be baking holiday cookies together, or shopping. I guess I will just drop off gifts whenever they arrive because it’s getting colder this weekend. We already ordered Little Passports, https://www.littlepassports.com/ so that’s two nights done.

This was us at our Thanksgiving in the garden, and our menorah last night.

slide along from right to left!

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The other day I was being escorted to my car with a cart filled with bags of groceries, when the well meaning young man asked me if I had anything fun planned for the evening. Take note Northeners – here in the South, grocery clerks don’t even ask if you might need help out to your car. They just commandeer it.

Instead of fluffing him off, I said, “Yes, it’s the first night of Chanukka, do you even know what that is?” He smiled and said that he did, something about oil, right?

Leave it to my brother Eric to send me the real origin story of of this minor level Jewish Holiday that has scant hope of ever living up to Christmas.

A camel walks into a bar. I know, y’all thought it has something to do with a grand fight, the Maccabee brothers take on the holy Roman Empire. But according to this, the first time Chanukka is ever mentioned is in a Jewish law text, tort law no less. Back then, the rabbis were the chief judges and executioners of the land. And they made a distinction about fire damage claims in this Mishna:

If a camel knocks over a lamp, causing a fire, the rabbis say the camel driver is responsible if the lamp is indoors; but if the lamp is outside a shop, the shopkeeper is liable. Rabbi Jehudah provides an exception to this rule: The shopkeeper isn’t liable if the lamp is a “Hanukkah lamp.”

Some 250 years after the Maccabean Revolt, the rabbis explain why the menorah is lit, and it has more to do with a rededication of the Second Temple. Josephus first called the festival “Lights.” But in fact, like all traditions, it most likely originated with a newly monotheistic people trying to accommodate pagan rituals; “The more likely explanation is that Jewish households adopted the practice from pagan ritual, following which the authorities gave the practice a “Jewish explanation” after the fact. The Zoroastrians of Persia for instance marked the Winter Solstice with a festival of fire, called Chaharshanbe Suri, which predated Hanukkah and fell at about the same time of year.”

So thank you Iran! And that explains why we have so many damn lights all over everything at Christmas! And thank you Rabbis, for wanting to emphasize a victory for our people, when so many times we suffered defeats like Masada.

The Groom said last night, “I Like Chanukka!” After all, you get to eat anything fried in oil right! And the Bride said guess what, “We’ve got six more nights to go!” But of course I had to remind that grocery clerk of the Adam Sandler movie, and the eight “crazy” nights, when he thought it lasted “…like a month or something.”

Still, I wonder why some people spell it with a “C” and some with an “H?” What do you want for Chanukka? IMG_1880

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