I was a junior in High School. It was during the December vacation. My sister was attending school at UC Berkeley and we were planning a family trip to visit her. But I came down with a cold, and my parents had to leave me behind.
I actually relished the idea that I would be home alone! I could do what I wanted, totally unsupervised!
The first night, I decided to celebrate these few days of freedom by making myself a steak, which I prepared perfectly and ate with childish abandon.
The second night I wasn’t quite as ambitious, and just poured myself a bowl of Cheerios.
The third night I was getting lonely and consoled myself with lots of TV. I remember, even to this day, watching an episode of Ben Casey, MD. Remember? It was a Christmas-themed show, and it was touching in a way that made me feel the spirit of the holiday season.
Finally, my parents returned, and lightness again permeated my home. And not just because Hanukkah began with their return.
And it was that lightness that I, to this day, associate with the lights of the Hanukkah candles: the radiance that chases away the darkness when kindling candles with loved ones; the candlelight that brings with it a sense of joy. I realized that there is a spirit and a beauty to Hanukkah that, for 8 days, during the darkest of days, brightens my life. Especially when celebrated with others.
So this Hanukkah, let’s think about Hanukkah’s past and how the present can recapture that time. Let’s light the candles with people we care about, eat the sufganiot and latkes, sing Hanukkah carols with gusto, and create more memories and emotions that can sustain us during dark days ahead.
-Rabbi David Vorspan, Rabbi-in-Residence