Eight Nights to Renew Your Inner Jewish Child

It’s Chanukah again, my second and Ryan’s first. Last year my chanukiyah and I were itinerant, going from friend’s house to friend’s house each night of the Festival of Lights. This year, Ryan and I will light our chanukiyot on our own dining table, and sing Maoz Tzur in our own living room. It’s a nice feeling, and a miraculous change from the year before.

When I blogged about lighting candles last year, a born Jewish friend confided that I inspired him to light a menorah for the first time in many years. So I’ll note proudly, this year we’re two adult men about to light our menorahs for eight nights. To say the blessings, make latkes (my first ever from last night are pictured above), attempt sufganiyot. (Chicagoans, think: Jewish paczki; everyone else, think: jelly donuts.) To talk about the meaning of the holiday. To let ourselves publicly feel as commanded as Reform Jews sometimes let ourselves feel only behind closed doors.

We often forget that the amazing calendar of Jewish holidays is for everyone, young and old, families and singles, near and far. Especially at this time of year, we can lose sight of the fact that lighting a chanukiyah–or shaking a lulav, or witnessing a Torah unrolled, or recounting our Exodus–have meaning for all who participate in the ritual.

When many of us were small, we experienced the magic and wonder of our holidays. As adults, many of us experience them–and connect with the Eternal–through the smiling eyes of our children. But don’t forget to let your eyes smile, too. Preparing our kids to ┬áparticipate in our religious holidays is an unfinished endeavor unless we make sure we adults are full participants, too. All in our families. All in our communities.

And the pain of cleaning wax out of a used chanukiyah aside (two words: hair dryer), you know how cool you thought lighting them was when you were young. As I said on Yom Kippur, our tradition teaches that first we do and then we hear. So you never know. You might feel silly giving yourself over to the spirit of this or any other Jewish religious holiday.

Or you might connect in ways you forgot that you could. Chag Orim Sameach to all, and to all eight good nights.

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