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Eight Nights of Celebrating

by Simply BIts | Jan 04, 2017

Hanukkah - 8th nightWe just finished celebrating the Festival of Hanukkah…for eight nights. There certainly is a lot to celebrate. The Maccabees, a small army of untrained but determined Jews, defeated the larger, better trained and more powerful Syrian Army. And then, if that was not enough, when the Jews went to reclaim, restore and rededicate the Temple, the oil in the Temple’s menorah that was only supposed to last for one night, burned for eight full days. So, today, we celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah for eight days and nights. It is a fun and festive holiday, and it lasts for eight days and nights.

At Handmaker we celebrated every night. Every night, every menorah in each Handmaker neighborhood was lit and the blessings were sung. And each day and night we did something to make that evening’s celebration special. We sang Hanukkah songs most nights. We were blessed to have some young families come by and play dreidel a few nights, the Temple Emanu-El youth group (JCTEY) came by to play Hanukkah bingo one night, Rabbi Ruven Barkan from Congregation Anshei Israel joined us one night, Rabbi Thomas Louchheim from Congregation Or Chadash and some of the families from his congregation came by to play games another night. We even had a beautiful Hanukkah concert one night with Tucson native, Bryce Megdal. We fried and ate potato latkes and decorated Hanukkah cookies, and ate lots and lots of chocolate gelt. And it was fun. It was rewarding to see their happy faces, enjoying the celebrations, both the Jewish and non-Jewish residents. And while eight nights might sound like a few too many nights to celebrate, every day should really be celebrated when you reach your 80's or 90's, Hanukkah just gave us a good excuse.

But the most heartwarming part of the holiday this year to me, was the participation of some of our Jewish residents who do not regularly participate in some of our other Jewish activities. Not everyone wants to or can come to the Friday night service and dinner, or to the Shabbat morning service, to Torah Study, to Jewish Baking or to Rabbi Lectures. But, almost everyone who was asked, wanted to come light the menorah and sing the blessings, if they could. A few in some of our neighborhoods with the highest levels of care, who have a really hard time even getting out of bed, wanted to get into their wheelchairs and roll down the hall to see the menorah, hear the blessings, and maybe sing some songs. It was beautiful. You could see the recognition in their faces. They may not have been able to read the Hebrew blessings, but they moved their lips to it. Perhaps the ritual brought back some happy memories. Maybe they are big fans of the song Mao Tzur (Rock of Ages). Or it could be that they think that the menorah just looks beautiful when lit. Whatever their personal reasons were, they came. And to me, that was the greatest miracle of Hanukkah this year.