My husband was raised Jewish and celebrated his bar mitzvah when he was 14. Although he no longer attends weekly services, the holidays of his youth still echo in his heart. Therefore, in our home, amidst all the Advent candles and early Christmas preparations, we also celebrate Hanukkah.
This was a learning curve for me.When we were first married, I was eager to learn my beloved’s traditions. We started out by buying children’s books to enhance my education about the basics of this beautiful celebration. Just weeks after our wedding, we went to a Hanukkah festival at a nearby synagogue and purchased our first menorah together. Twenty-seven years later, we continue to share the stories and traditions with our adult children.
On each of the eight nights, we light candles and recall the ancient miracle of a meager amount of oil that continued to burn brightly as it reflected the faith of the believers. We ponder the significance of God overcoming terrifying circumstances and the ability of a small group of dedicated people to stand up for their beliefs. We celebrate God’s faithfulness and take hope from the growing light shining in the darkness.
We enjoy latkes with applesauce and cherish a bit of family time as we spin the dreidel and play games. Hanukkah is not the most important Jewish holiday, but its light-hearted joy offers vital reminders about standing up against evil and trusting in God.
It turns out, of course, that it doesn’t have to be my tradition in order to have something to teach me. It doesn’t have to be my heritage in order to reveal more about the God I love. While celebrating a holiday that is not my own, I have experienced what a wise (Jewish) professor of mine identified as “holy appreciation.” That is, I have the ability to appreciate the holy practices of others and when I do, I can learn about values that we both share.
We are not all meant to be alike.We are not called to all worship the same way. We can, however, learn with and from one another. And then everyone will be stronger.
For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mind, if we
each are free to light our own flame, together we can banish some
of the darkness in the world.
- Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks