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Filtering by Tag: Hanukkah

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Tuesday evening marked the first night of Hanukah. Michael and I rushed through our lighting of the first candle and Hanukkah prayers because we had to get across town for the Cabbage's school Christmas play. She was the Reindeer Whisperer, which was a very important part because her character saves Christmas. The performers were all first graders and I commend the music teacher for her ability to herd a hundred cats. One of my favorite performers was a kid dressed as a reindeer. His signature dance move was the pelvic thrust while wiggling his fingers at his family in the audience. The kid playing Santa had a broken leg. He spent the performance seated in a big chair center stage. Occasionally he would pick up his good leg and play with the bottom of his shoe. At the middle point in the play, he pulled his fake beard off and thoroughly scratched his face with both hands.  The whole production was spectacular, including the moment Mrs. Santa broke character to yell "WE NEED THE REINDEERS DOWN HERE!"

On the second night of Hanukkah, everyone got home late and it was well after sundown when we lit our menorah candles and said our prayers. We stood there for maybe a minute longer than we had the previous night. Both of us were tired. Michael is fighting the sinus congestion cold that I had all weekend and I am still dealing with the aftermath of all that congestion. Both of had to stop gazing at the burning candles in order to go blow our noses. The third night of Hanukkah was not much different from the second night of Hanukkah, with the two of us cramming in the candle lighting between making dinner and paying bills. We are definitely, unintentionally, lacking in enthusiasm this year, but we persist. We persist because of the third blessing that was said on the first night: 

Praised are You, Our God, Ruler of the universe, Who has given us life and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.

We put the emphasis on the part about being able to reach this season, because ain't that truth. 

The Cabbage mentioned something about getting a different stocking for our house. I made a big fuss over the blood, sweat and cursing that went into the making of her stocking. I'd had a hard time getting the sewing machine to work properly that year. Michael asked me when I had made my stocking. I told him that I had made my stocking along with Hooper's the year before I had made his and the Cabbage's. Michael thought about this for a minute and then said "Wait...you made a stocking for yourself and your dog for your first Christmas alone and then your dog died before Christmas? That's the saddest story." I just shrugged, but was thinking that it all depends on how you look at things. Sure it was sad, but at the same time appropriately hilarious because it is a dark comedy that only Chris could have written for the big screen. Of course the heroine of the story loses her husband and her dog in the same year. That's just the first five minutes of this movie. It's what she does after those losses that has the audience standing in ovation. 

So yeah...I am thankful for whatever enables us to reach this season. I am also thankful for the reminder to pause, even if it is just for a short moment, in our busy daily life to recognize and honor the fact that we are still here, still kicking, still putting up the good fight. And speaking of putting up the good fight, I want to thank the Black women of Alabama for getting out and rocking that vote on Tuesday. It is one thing for me to say thank you through social media, but I want to do better than that. So I'm trying to figure out a way to move either my monthly Planned Parenthood donation or monthly Donors Choose donation to the NAACP. I can't do all three, but I will find a way! It may mean that I end up helping out physically with campaigns and doing more foot work. I recognize that I can do more to show my gratitude. Actually, there is something I want more of in the next year and that would be more gratitude in action. 

I am thankful for Terry (he knows why). I am thankful for my Neti pot. I am thankful for lunch with a friend who has spent the last year just traveling all around this planet. I am thankful to hear her stories. I am thankful for the little surprises that come with this season. And...I am thankful for you.

EIGHT CRAZY NIGHTS: WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LIGHTING THE MENORAH

Cindy Maddera

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?