I Missed a Day Again: Reflections on Hanukkah by Ivy Helman

20151004_161012When I first started back on my journey to reclaim Judaism, I distinctly remember the first Hanukkah I lit candles. Not only was I bringing light into the literal darkness of night, I was also kindling the divine spark within myself. Each night I walked through a meditation I had created using the letters of the word Hanukkah, since there were eight letters and eight nights. I remember some of the words I had assigned to the nights: Holiness, Attentiveness, Night, Understand, Knowledge and Keep. I can’t remember the rest, but I do remember feeling the calm of the candlelight and the deepness of the meditation. I also remember that at some point, either I missed a night of lighting or I repeated one night twice because the days were officially over, and I still hadn’t lit all eight candles.

That has happened to me twice since I returned to Judaism. Yes, twice. Maybe three times. Oh, I don’t know. Now every time the festival approaches I worry that I’m going to do it again. I’m constantly rechecking the calendar so that I am certain I know which night we are on and so that I don’t miss one. I know it sounds like a mundane worry. Yet, in many ways Judaism works on turning the mundane into the holy. This was clearly a lesson on the ways in which the routine of life had too much control over me. Continue reading “I Missed a Day Again: Reflections on Hanukkah by Ivy Helman”

Let’s Celebrate the Holiday Shopping Season by Barbara Ardinger

We’ve recently celebrated Thanksgiving, when I hope that, like me, you gave thanks to the deity of your choice for the wise and thoughty blogs we’ve been reading on this site. Now we’re well into the holiday season, which seems (at least in the malls) to start earlier every year. No matter what you call the December holiday, its origin lies in the winter solstice, which is the tipping point of the year’s dark season. The solar gods—Adonis, Amon-Ra, Apollo, Attis, Baal, Horus, Jesus the Christ, Lugh, Marduk, Mithra, Shamash, Sol Invictus, and the rest—are born or reborn now. These are the gods who live for a season or a year in great honor, after which they’re sacrificed, spend a season underground, and are then reborn. This happens every year at the winter solstice. (Just so you know: if Jesus was a real man, he was probably born in the spring or fall between 7 and 4 B.C.E. In 354 C.E., Bishop Liberius of Rome moved his official birth date to December 25 to match the birth date of the popular Roman god Mithra.)

Also born and reborn at the winter solstice is the light itself, the solar light and the temple light, too. We can think of the reborn light as literal light—a lamp in a temple that burns for eight days when it has fuel for only one—or metaphorical light, that is, learning, wisdom, and generosity. Hanukkah (which usually comes in December but which coincided with Thanksgiving this year) embraces both literal and metaphorical light. Continue reading “Let’s Celebrate the Holiday Shopping Season by Barbara Ardinger”

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