Tonight is the 3rd night of Hanukkah. The first night of Hanukkah my husband and I each lit our own respective menorahs. The second night too. But tonight my husband is on the road; at 4pm, which is sundown nowadays, it’s just me at home. My husband will be home later tonight, and when he comes home he’ll light his menorah. Meanwhile, mine remains candle-less and light-less. I can’t do it without him?
Of course I can.
The issue, I realize, as I indulge myself on the sofa by the menorah, is that this is the birthday of my father, and it was only two weeks ago when he, my father, may he rest in peace, died. In a dignified service at a national cemetery, we buried him and honored him, and his life, 9 days ago. So today is the first time we’ve had my father’s birthday without him, and it’s also Hanukkah, a day of celebration.
The menorah remains unlit in front of the window as it’s darker and darker on the outside of the glass. I can hear the cars drive by, but I remain in my world.
I had a pretty good day. Got up, went to a doctor’s appointment, which had a good result, and went to another doctor’s appointment, which also had a good result. I had reason to feel good about my future.
I haven’t realized it yet but as I lay on the sofa with my feet on the side arm rest, I don’t feel I have permission to celebrate on this particular day, this particular night, which our holiday requires us to do. And this is why I’m dawdling. And feeling sad. It may look like I’m doing nothing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
As the minutes pass by, I really really need to light these nerot. We cannot live in darkness. The holiday tells us to bring light to our lives and to the world. So I fill the shamash-holder (the servant candle) and three candle holders with candles. I light the shamash, and say my blessings, and light the three nerot, the three candles.
And as I’m doing this, this is what I realize :
My mother and father have given me this beautiful 2,154 year-old legacy of lighting the Hanukkah menorah to have as my own. They’ve given it to my siblings too, to have as their own. Lighting my candles and honoring our holiday honors them too, and honors their ancestors, the unbroken line, all the way back to Abraham.
The legacy also says that there is a time for mourning and a time for celebrating. I have kept my obligatory 7 days of shiva and now taken off my wrinkled mourning shirt, which sits in a heap on my bench. Although I had thought I’d get rid of it when the mourning ended, now I’m unable to throw it away. And now we are into the 8 days of Hanukkah. On this 3rd day and night, it’s time to celebrate our legacy, and it’s time to celebrate, and remember, the lives of those we love and who have given us so much and who have carried on this great tradition and allowed us to do the same.
We can do both.