“Who can retell the things that befell us? Who can count them?” -popular English verses for Mi Yimalel
This HanukkahThe holiday which celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem following its conquest by the Syrians in 165 BCE. The holiday is celebrated by lighting candles in a hanukiyah oon each of eight nights. Other customs include the eating of fried foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly donuts), playing dreidl (a gambling game with a spinning top), and, in present day America, gift giving. song has been stuck in my head for the last few weeks. Throughout my life, I have understood Mi Yimalel as about the distant past, about Jewish history. This year, it is also about the present. There are approximately 140 hostages still in captivity.
How do we celebrate a time of miracles and light when they are literally underground without access to sunlight? How do we hold it all?
While we must affirm life and find ways to go on, we cannot proceed as if Oct 7 did not happen. Our joy is incomplete. At the PassoverPassover is a major Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jewish people's liberation from slavery and Exodus from Egypt. Its Hebrew name is Pesakh. Its name derives from the tenth plague, in which God "passed over" the homes of the Jewish firstborn, slaying only the Egyptian firstborn. Passover is celebrated for a week, and many diaspora Jews celebrate for eight days. The holiday begins at home at a seder meal and ritual the first (and sometimes second) night. Jews tell the story of the Exodus using a text called the haggadah, and eat specific food (matzah, maror, haroset, etc).sederLit. Order. The festive meal conducted on Passover night, in a specific order with specific rituals to symbolize aspects of the Exodus from Egypt. It is conducted following the haggadah, a book for this purpose. The mystics of Sefat also created a seder for Tu B'shvat, the new year of the trees., we remove drops of wine from our cup for each plague. We intentionally diminish our joy in order to remember and acknowledge. This Hanukkah, on the 8th night, I will leave the final candle unlit as an expression of incompleteness of our joy.I invite you to join me in this modification to the Hanukkah candle lighting ritual if you too want to remember and acknowledge the complications and incompleteness of joy this Hanukkah.
As a Reconstructionist Jew, I don’t understand miracles in the traditional sense. For me, God works through us, not upon us. I don’t know exactly who the “hero or sage” is who can come to the aid of the hostages and facilitate their immediate release, yet I pray that all those who have any power that could be used towards that outcome do so, speedily and with all of their might.
I pray for the hostages and their families: for strength, for hope, for healing. May they know they are not alone. May they know they are counted.