Happy Channukah. The festival of re-dedication is now upon us and no doubt, so many will gather to light the Channukiah, sing a few songs, exchange too many gifts and indulge perhaps, in a few latkes. Religious schools will retell the “miracle” story and maybe some Torah study groups will delve into the political truths of the Hasmonean revolt and its subsequent internal decline. Sadly, Channukah has become way too commercialised and, as some other holidays and festivals, may have wandered away from some of the more basic and powerful truths. I think for us as we age, as Boomers who are now confronting our own aging and mortality, this festival can take on extra special meaning for it allows us, if we wish, to re-examine the “miracles” in our life.
We recently posted on the Jewish Sacred Aging Facebook page notice of two studies, one by Pew Foundation and the other by Cigna Health, that looked at the rise of isolation and loneliness and the need for social inter-action. I mention this as I think that these studies, and our own experience, speak to this need. As out own social circles, in many cases, begin to constrict, we become more aware that our relationships mean more to us than any material “thing”. In truth, the greatest present we can give someone is presence. We will spend these nights lighting candles in increasing order, as if to symbolise the need to increase the “light” we can bring to others by relationship as well as the need to have those relationships expand for us.
At the heart of this is the fact that we need to feel and be needed. Heschel, the great 20th century scholar/theologian wrote that “Happiness, in fact, may be defined as the certainty of being needed”. A certain fact is that , as we get older, the “need to be needed” and need to give that gift to others, becomes more important as well as more challenging. A true miracle is that connection that is formed between human beings who share a common bond, a common cause and time. That connection, which can transform people and provide meaning and purpose, is a true miracle. So here is a wish, that as you light those candles, think about the ways to enhance the relationships that you have, or renew relationships that have frayed, or create new relationships that will bring a renewed sense of need and thus meaning.
Rabbi Richarda F. Address