Last Chanukah my Yiddisheh Mama gave our son Lewis and
his wife directions to her new high rise condominium in Fort Lauderdale. She
hadn’t seen them since she moved.
"When you come to the front door of the complex, I’m in apartment 18C."
She continued, "There is a big buzzer panel at the door so with your elbow, push
button 18C. I will buzz you in. You’ll see the elevators on the right. Once
inside, with your elbow push the button for the 18th floor. As you exit, I’m the
first door on the left. With your elbow, hit my doorbell."
“Bubbe, that sounds easy," replied Lewis, "but why am I hitting all these
buttons with my elbow"? To which she answered, "Tattala it’s Chanukah,
your hands will be holding presents?!!"
Chanukah is a wonderful holiday. Although there is no mention in the Tanakh
of this event taking place the story is told in the Apocrypha. We celebrate the
miracle of a small army defeating a mega power, restoring the nation, allowing
us the freedom to worship, helping us to prevent assimilation and preserving
Judaism as a religion. When we follow Hashem all things become possible.
It was then just as it is today with Israel being restored as a Jewish nation.
We enjoy retelling the story and embellish it as our parents and their ancestors
did before. Of course the holiday has evolved with its old traditions and with
new traditions added with each new generation.
When the doorbell rings we’re greeted by our cheerful family carrying packages.
There are four adults, and our three beautiful little granddaughters. We greet
them with hugs, kisses and a “Chag Samayach, Happy Chanukah”. It seems
like yesterday when we arrived at my Mom’s house with our two young sons.
Soon a new symphony of memories will be created with the sound of the little
girls laughing, shouting and playing the dreidel game. The smell of
latkes frying fills our home while my besherte and our daughter-in-laws
are busy in the kitchen. I hear hocking, clopping and clanging and laughing, as
they orchestrate yet another meal of memories.
Our sons approach me and ask “Pops, do you need us to move or fix anything
around the house?” The standard joke is that I always have a task for them to
do. “Not today, it’s Chanukah, but next time you come, I need you to replace a
spot light for me. It’s difficult for me to get on a ladder with my bad knees.”
They head towards the garage for the ladder and bulb; they will replace it for
me now, I’m so blessed. Our younger son Lewis always stops in to help me around
the house. Adam lives 90 miles away; I wish we lived nearer.
The girls stop playing and watch as I place the tray with the Menorah and
candles on the dining room table. They watch and beg …
“Papa, Papa, let me light the candles pleeeeease”
“Who knows the Brucha?” I ask.
They smile as they enthusiastically wave their hands and shout “Me, Me, Me.”
Ah, I think to myself, they’ll enjoy what’s coming next- lighting the candles
and singing the brucha’s. They all have such beautiful voices that it
will be a choral lighting ceremony this year and each one will get to light
candles. I was grateful that this was not the first day of Chanukah. Of course
they’ll soon begin to chant “presents, presents, presents” and then Grandma
Arlene, my besherte of forty-five years, with a stern voice and soft
heart, will correct their behavior just as she did last year. “My expectation is
that you behave like young ladies. Papa, you behave too and stop encouraging
them to be silly.” I had hoped she would keep me out of the behavior issue. I
really enjoy their enthusiasm during the festivity. Our sons are in another room
laughing and whispering to each other, just as they did when they were young. I
guess there is always something being said that Mama should not hear.
It’s been enough years that we all know the words and music to the Chanukah
songs. I’m always amazed how fast the little ones learned the words to the
songs; ah to be young again. We’ll sing “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah, Maoz Tzur,
I Have a Little Dreidel and Sivvivon, Sov, Sov, Sov.” I get a
flashback of my mom handing out little bags of Baricini’s chocolate coins and I
begin to re-experience the joy of the holiday back when I was child.
We take our chairs to form a circle. The telling of the story will begin and
each one of us will tell a small part of the story until the whole tale is told.
They then ask “Is it time for us to get our presents?" I respond by saying “It’s
time to give each other presents.”
Our oldest son Adam has been filming the entire event. He and his wife Nikole
are conscientious about recording memories by taking photos and filming family
events. I don’t remember when Arlene and I handed them the torch but I’m glad
they’re in charge of the family photography. It’s so wonderful to see and share
the photographs and videos on the computer
The lit candles bring brightness and warmth to the room. As my wife and I
prepare to be the first to hand out the presents, while the candles are burning,
I think about the fact that we as Jews are a light to the nations. We celebrate
differently, more than the traditional candle lighting and the exchange of
gifts. When we hand out the gifts the children receive seven physical gifts and
a card. The adults will receive a card and they will give us each a card. The
card is not a gift card; it’s a card from a charity acknowledging a financial
contribution. This year we all agreed to donate to a local food pantry to feed
those in need. The children are told that the eighth present is a gift from each
of them to feed a hungry child. Yes, this year we are going to be a light to
Happy Chanukah and may Hashem’s light shine brightly in and throughout