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How to See Holiness in the Rush of Our Lives

How to See Holiness in the Rush of Our Lives

Hanukkah menorah with eight candles and the shamash all burning

I had a completely different essay about Hanukkah all worked out in my head – all about the chag (holiday) and light and God and stuff. It was uh-may-zing, hanging in free-floating perfection there in my head, just waiting to go from thought to pixel to screen.

Then I got my eyes dilated. So much for that mythical, mystical essay.

Suddenly, though, I have a whole new concept of light. What at any other time is serviceable, and sometimes bordering on the dull-please-get-a-higher-watt-bulb-because-cataracts-and-old now has an intensity that is almost painful. Even at this time of year – mid-December, with its infinite shades of gray, in which you count the minutes of light that dwindle every day, and you wait and pray and tell yourself that you just need to make it to December 22 and all will be well again – even this late afternoon half-light is too bright.

Right now, the light positively glows. Right now, the light – the lamp, the sun – the exact source doesn't matter. The light is different. I am pulled out of my unnoticing, so that I have a chance to see.

That's as far as the metaphor will stretch; my apologies. It's not the dilation that is driving this introspection; the light does hurt, even as it is all glowy and fuzzy. No, it's Hanukkah itself that's causing this reflection on light (no pun intended, and so you know, I've practically burned out the delete key, in my efforts to avoid this all-too-obvious but unintentional pun). 

We go about our days, filled with work and carpools and groceries to be put away and fresh laundry to be folded and dinner to be made. There's homework in there, and correspondence and bills to be overlooked one more week. We run and we do and we go, an ever-moving faster pace that keeps us hurtling forward. There's planning to do and calls to make. It is never-ending. And don't get me wrong – there's a whole lot of joy in all this hurtling. There also are great stretches of nothing much of anything – the "normal" cacophony of emotional noise that flits and flutters through our heads and hearts. It's life, and it drives us along pathways that are at once familiar and comfortable and ignored. 

But for those eight nights, the light is different. For those eight nights, I get to stand next to my son and pause as we light the candles of the hanukkiyah. I hear the scratch and sizzle of the match, I see the flicker of the candles – one more each night – as the small flame dances atop graceful pastel tapers. I get to chant a blessing that feels as old as the sun, and that hangs in the air in weightless beauty, as if lingering, too, for just a few seconds more, to watch the light dance and flow. And my son and I, we stand, and we watch and we linger just a fraction of a second longer before the rush of our lives returns.

For those eight blessed nights, I am given the gift of light – a light that shines differently, a light that dances and glows and allows me to pause and share something ancient and holy with my son. 

Blessed are you, God, Ruler of All, who sanctifies us and commands us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

Chag urim sameach! (A joyous holiday of light!)

Stacey Zisook Robinson is a member of Congregation Hakafa in Glencoe, IL. She blogs at Stumbling Towards Meaning and is the author of a collection of poems and essays, Dancing in the Palm of God's Hand.

Stacey Zisook Robinson
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