I am writing from a hotel in Easton, Pennsylvania, after enjoying a joyous family wedding.
Blessed with a large extended
mishpachah, Alan and I spent almost a week back East celebrating Thanksgiving with 30 immediate famil
y members, visiting my Tanta Esther, having Shabbat dinner with 35 other cousins, and culminating with my nephew's wedding. Taking the time to travel for simchas and having the opportunity to dance and party with grandnephews and grandnieces is an exhilarating experience.
As I grow older, I am more acutely aware of the uniqueness of each person's life journey. When I asked the young ones about their present life situations, I heard diverse stories. A second cousin who went to school to become a fashion designer is driving a horse-driven carriage in Philadelphia and giving tours for tourists. Another niece has found her true love in Australia, and a nephew is in Israel in the army.
The members of the millennial generation in my family are adventurous, curious about who they are and what they can become, and are not afraid to experiment and live outside of expectations and rules.
This has been the theme all week as I encountered the younger family members from all over the county. I wonder if it is like this in your families?
This theme of renewal and self discovery is one of the Hanukkah themes.
The ritual of lighting the Hanukkah lights tell us to wait until "all the feet have left the marketplace." It is odd that the rabbis did not simply instruct us to wait until we have three stars in the sky. The wording in Hebrew for feet is
The Midrash, the classic interpretation, tells us, let's think of the other definition of
regel, which means something we do habitually, automatically and often without too much thought:
regel in Hebrew represents the status quo.
Therefore, literally, we don't light the candles until people have left the marketplace and returned home at night, but figuratively, we don't light the candles until our "regularity" - our everyday attitude - is shifted. We are told to wake up and find the uniqueness every night while l
ighting the candles. In what way can we renew and replenish ourselves? How can we appreciate each night of lighting as an evening filled with excitement about our future and its possibilities?
I have learned from this week and all my conversations with younger family members that there can be great curiosity and excitement about life's challenges. My first cousin had a great shoe store for the past seven years that he had to close because of financial challenges. Instead of mourning, he is wonderi
ng about his next chapter and how he can discover new passions and find different dreams to pursue.
Let us share this mindset during Hanukkah and let the lights illuminate our hidden desires and explore possibilities of new adventures, greater joy and gratitude for our community of Lev Eisha. Maybe this is th
e year to join our January retreat to discover new dreams and possibilities for growth and rejuvenation this year.
Chag Hanukkah Samaech. Only a light-filled, healthy and happy Hanukkah for us all. AMEN
Rabbi Toba August