Hanukkah is so early this year, it’s a miracle that I have everything ready!
Hanukkah, which is Hebrew for “dedication,” is the Festival of Lights. Thanks to Adam Sandler, people think Hanukkah is “eight crazy nights” filled with lots of presents, blue and gold decorations, and lots of food. That’s kinda what it is – at least those are some of the more commercial elements. Hanukkah commemorates the triumph of a band of rebel Jews known as the Maccabees in reclaiming their temple in Jerusalem from the Greek-Syrians. The miracle of Hanukkah is that only one vial of olive oil was found with just enough oil to keep the Temple lamp lit for one day, and yet it lasted for eight full days. It was a miracle!
Hanukkah is a celebration of light, a celebration of this miracle, and really all miracles. And after this long crazy year, we can all appreciate celebrating small miracles.
In third grade, my son started going to Wednesday Hebrew school to begin the long preparation of learning Hebrew for his Bar Mitzvah at age 13. It was a miracle that we made it to Hebrew classes because it always seemed to conflict with after-school activities, sports practices, and last-minute carpool changes.
We picked a Bar Mitzvah date years in advance, and it was a miracle we found an open date between New Orleans festivals, hurricane season, and holiday events. Because my son has an early August birthday that coincides with the start of school, we decided on a November Bar Mitzvah. November is a beautiful time of year full of weddings, fundraisers, and events and it was a miracle that we found a venue to host his Bar Mitzvah party and other events for our guests.
It was a miracle our son was able to learn his Torah portion in the middle of a pandemic while playing travel baseball, while going to virtual school, and then starting a new school amidst all typical middle school “changes.” Everything was going as planned until our son tested positive for Covid the week of his Bar Mitzvah. When we awoke on the Tuesday morning prior and saw that email about the positive Covid-19 test, it felt more like a punishment! After so many years of planning, months of stay-at-home orders, and social distancing, and despite getting the family vaccinated, my son tests positive the week of his Bar Mitzvah?! Already feeling emotional and mentally exhausted, it was a miracle we were able to regroup and come up with an alternative plan, instead of crumbling under the weight of this disheartening development.
The eternal lesson of Hanukkah is that we must trust and never lose hope. At times it may feel like the world is falling apart and we are being punished, but that small vial of olive oil inspires us to believe that miracles can happen, even small ones, when we least expect them.
What a miracle that we could pivot to a virtual service that included all the Touro Synagogue clergy using Zoom. What a miracle it was that our synagogue brought a Torah to our home for our son to chant from at our dining room table. What a miracle that our friends and family throughout New Orleans and around the country could watch the virtual Bar Mitzvah service streamed online. What a true miracle that our son could become a Bar Mitzvah (Son of Commandments), in a beautiful and intimate way, seated next to his parents, surrounded by the pride, love, laughter, and tears of his family.
Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of triumph, the miracle of overcoming those crazy life obstacles that we all deal with every day. This year, perhaps more than ever, we realize that miracles big and small do occur and are cause for reverence and celebration. Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays!
Jody is the mom of two boys, Billy, the Bar Mitzvah boy, and Max. She and her husband Gilbert just celebrated 15 years of marriage. Jody is the Executive Director of Grant Factory, a nonprofit that connects small nonprofits to professional and pro-bono fundraising development. Jody loves Mardi Gras and is a Float Lieutenant for the Krewe of King Arthur and a rider in the Krewe of Iris. Jody enjoys volunteering in the community and serves on numerous volunteer boards. During her free time, you can find Jody at the baseball field, the soccer field, or in search of exciting new ethnic foods.