With my mom’s recent passing, I found attending synagogue helpful in being able to take time to reflect and pray with my community. I listened to the parsha of Bereshit, the story of creation that I knew so well. Yet this time the words, “G-d saw the light, that it was good, and G-d separated between the light and between the darkness,” were so powerful to me.
This resonated with me because even in mourning or turmoil we can stop and rejoice and focus on the light within our family without minimizing the darkness of our loss or pain. At Simchat Torah this year, I felt uncomfortable dancing with the Torah while still in mourning. However, it made me smile to see my children be a part of this; especially as they were also dealing with the loss. That night, I was reminded how much my mom loved Jewish music and dancing.
I remember that when my mom was ill she didn’t seem to get excited about much anymore but one time, my sister encouraged her to attend a special children’s Shabbat. When I arrived, both my sister and I glanced at each other excited to see our mom dancing. She truly loved being with children. My brother would tell us when he visited with his baby, when my mom held the baby in her arms, her eyes would light up and it felt like she was coming back. These memories were a miracle to us.
When we think of the miracle of Chanukah we often only think of the oil lasting for eight days. However, another miracle is that even in a time of awful oppression and hiding their religion the Maccabees did not give up. Their lives and place of worship seemed destroyed, but they would not give up. They knew that even one drop of oil (that produced light) could give them hope. Standing up to the darkness of being destroyed and doing tikkun olam (repairing the world) was a great miracle.
The Jews have faced so much persecution through time but we have not let the light extinguish us. At another recent Shabbat, our congregation celebrated a bar mitzvah with singing and dancing. Yet, the rabbi still took time to have us pause and focus on the tragedies in Paris. He taught me that there is a power in both the light and darkness in the world that we need to partake in our lives.
With all the “Black Friday” sales and commercialism, it is important we take time to reflect with our children and teach them about the miracles of Chanukah. Even at six years old they can be more aware of people who are less fortunate than we are. We can discuss ways we can give tzedakah (charity) and help somebody instead of just asking for something. When we light the candles we can close our eyes and pray for those in need. The Chanukah lights will push through the darkness and shine a bright light on us and with our good deeds send some light and comfort to someone in need.
When Chanukah comes this year, I will light a candle in my heart for my mother’s memory and think of so many joys we shared. In everyone’s smile, I will see the warmth of her smile. As we gather together I will cherish the light surrounding us.
Sharon just moved to Lafayette and loves being closer to the mountains and enjoys the community. She is a mom in her 40’s of almost 6 year old twins who is going back to teaching preschool after being a stay at home. Her family loves finding ways to celebrate our Judaism in song, food and prayer with our family and friends.