On Christmas Eve, as we were driving to drop off the Cabbage with her Mom, I said to Michael "It's the first night of Hanukkah. We should light a menorah!" He narrowed his eyes and said "We should light a menorah!" We dropped the kid off and then headed to Walgreens to buy a menorah except Walgreens didn't have any. So then we went to World Market, but they didn't have any menorahs either. World Market doesn't seem so 'worldly' now. Finally, we walked next door to Target and they had menorahs tucked over on an end cap between stationary and birthday wrapping paper. We bought a menorah and some candles and while Michael drove us home, I did some research on how we're actually supposed to light the candles.
We got home and set up our little menorah. Michael lit the shamash candle and then I said the blessings before he lit the first candle of Hanukkah. Then we looked at each other with giant grins on our faces. This felt important and relevant. Soon after I posted a picture of our menorah, Chad sent me a text asking me if Michael is Jewish. I sent a reply of 'nope' and then explained that we just felt that lighting the menorah was something we would do this year. As the days past and I posted more menorah pictures, I had several people say to me "I didn't know you were Jewish!" Again, I would explain that I am not Jewish and that lighting the menorah was our way of honoring other religions during this Holiday season. Michael even talked about getting a calendar that listed ALL the holidays and trying to celebrate every single one throughout a year. Charles, our friend who is about to be ordained as a priest, reminded us that this was an overwhelming idea because there are SO MANY HOLIDAYS. So we put a hold on that thought.
For eight days, we said blessings and lit the candles on the menorah. When we traveled, we took the menorah with us. We included all of those we stayed with in lighting the menorah.
Blessed are you, our G-d, King of the Universe who sanctified us with his commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah lights.
Blessed are you, our G-d, King of the Universe who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.
Each night, I spoke those words as I watched Michael light one candle and then another. It was a moment of each day where we had to pause. It was a moment of each day where we had to stop and say "it's time to light the menorah." and it made us more mindful. It gave the holiday and the time spent with family and friends more of something I'm not sure of. Maybe tangible? Meaningful? Respectful. Important. This may be the beginning of a yearly tradition. Maybe next year we add on until we are recognizing all of the different religions. Do you know the story of Giordano Bruno? He was an Italian Dominican friar who lived between 1550 and 1600. He continued Copernicus's work and proposed that stars where distant suns and that the universe is infinite. Of course, the Roman Inquisition didn't care for this and had Bruno executed for heresy. During his trial it is said that Bruno defended his theories by saying that God is infinite and therefor the universe must be infinite. He declared to the Roman Catholics that "their God was too small." He was burned at the stake on February 17th, 1600.
Lighting the menorah each night reminded me that I grew up in a religion whose God is too small, too exclusive, a religion very much like the many other exclusive religions. Yet, by taking a moment to understand other religions we begin to understand more about each other and it is apparent that we all want to believe in something greater than ourselves. Isn't that proof that God is indeed infinite and not confined to one book or another?