Saturday, July 11, 2020 -
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When days are no longer days

SOMETHING that I love about Chanukah is how each night is referred to by the name or number of each candle. For one week, days are no longer Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc., but each day is now named by a candle. Ner rishon, “candle one,” ner sheni, “candle two,” and so on all through the eight days.

Each night and day of Chanukah is lived unto itself, is treasured for itself.

Each night we light another candle, and each night we fry another  treat. Each night we light another candle, and we tell another story, play another game, exchange another gift or sing another song.

Candle one: Maoz Tzur, Rock of Ages, thank you G-d, feeling grateful, shredding a humble potato, slicing a pungent onion, sprinkling salt and peppery pepper. Heating the oil to sizzling hot. Holding a piping latka. Dolloping with melted apples in their skins, maple syrup and vanilla.

Candle two: Hanerot Halalu, the holy flames, another hot pot of oil, a yeasty pillowy, satisfying sufganiyah.

Candle three: Nerotai Ha-ze’irim, the magic of childhood Chanukah songs, hot fried coin shaped pancakes.

Candle four: dreidel spinning by the amber glow, sweetly fried fruit fritters.

Candle five: a story, an inspiration, a Chanukah menorah made by the starving inmates from the precious potatoes in Auschwitz, a hot supper of crisp fried fillet of fish.

Candle six: a huge fried circle of lacey potato kugel, Chanukah gelt folded in the tiny fingers of children’s palms . . .

On the Chanukah holiday, it is not the static cooking of whipping up a batch of this or that and just sticking it in the oven to let the machine work its heat and do the baking. No! It is the dynamic, on the spot, stove top, fire-lit cooking we ourselves engage in and supervise, tweak and move, and then eat on the piping hot spot. We fry and we feast.

IT might not seem like much, just a small light. One candle. But that is how we celebrate and feel grateful. One candle at a time. One day at a time. Until it is one blazing light, eight nights. Because when you are emerging from darkness, one light, one candle — that could mean a lot. In fact, it could mean everything.

That one little candle, that one little light, a pach shemen of hope, could mean the difference between darkness and light.

In this hour of twilight, we try to capture something elusive . . . it is no longer day and not quite night. The world is cloaked by a glowing amber light.

And in those moments we kindle a candle. Night by night. Candle by candle. Meal by meal.

In this fleeting frame of time, either outdoors in the nip of the night or inside, by the comfort of the translucent glass window looking out. By candle-light. Lingering . . .

Chanukah is a slow, take your time kind of week. Fun, oh joy, yet relaxed and mellow. Humble — just a candle, a potato — yet grand. It is the light that shines on. A hope in the night.

May each and every one of your Chanukah candles shine and fill you with light.

Copyright © 2010 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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