By Batsheva Haber
“I’m so excited for Chanukkah! I feel like Am Yisrael really needs a holiday right now!”
My roommates laughed when I said that to them yesterday as we were getting ready for the first night of Chanukkah. And I get it, I am not typical so “fluffy”. However, I couldn’t help but turn up the fluffiness a little bit.
If I’m being honest, it’s been a hard few weeks. I’ve felt it, as I’m sure many of you have. I put on a brave face, smile, and go on with my daily life – but deep down, I know I’m faking it.
I know it every time I remember one of the attacks, and want to put everything on hold. I know it every time I see the memorials in my hometown for the beloved neighbor we lost a few weeks ago. I know it every time I get a news notification on my phone and my heart stops for a moment. I know it every time I go out, hand in my pocket holding my pepper spray, as I unwillingly jump at every sudden movement. I know it every time I travel home and see the soldiers with their guns ready to protect me, in a way that is both scary and comforting.
I seem like I’m ok, but I’m not, I am just pretending.
And I know all the correct answers and speeches. The “We Need to Move On” speech, and the “We Shouldn’t be Afraid” speech, and lets not forget the “Living is How We Fight Terror” speech. I know them all well, and I’ve pulled them out whenever necessary to convince others over the past few weeks. And yet, the person who needs to hear it most, is me.
So yes, I need this holiday. And so does the rest of Am Yisrael.
As I said that line, I realized that I was happy, giddy even. My roommates didn’t hesitate to call me out on it, and I quickly understood what it was. For the first time in far too long, I was hopeful. And it felt wonderful.
Chanukkah is the Holiday that symbolizes most the victory of light over darkness. It teaches us a powerful lesson, one that I seem to have forgotten recently. In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” True, it is dark. But as long as we are still fighting to bring light to the world, not all is lost.
I was reminded of something I saw last Chanukkah. It was shortly after a horrific attack at the light rail in Jerusalem, where a terrorist drove into the train stop, killing a young woman and a new born baby. After the attack, security blocks made of concrete were put up to protect the people waiting at the stops, an ugly reminder of the terror that can strike at any point. However on that night of Chanukkah, someone took out their Menorah and lit it on the concrete block. By doing this they reminded me that we can control the situation, can transform it, and can win, if we only remember to bring some light.
I was hit by this message again as I sang the verses of Maoz Tzur last night after lighting the candles. Things were bad. Not just now, but at many different points in Jewish History. In fact, so many times it seemed that the darkness had won. However, Am Yisrael never gave up. And in fighting with even a little bit of light, and a lot of God’s help, we always, always, shone through the darkness and lit up the world.
So with that new found hope I turned to the last stanza, my longtime favorite, and with all the strength I had left, I tried to light a spark – in me, amongst my people and my country, and throughout the entire world:
“חשוף זרוע קודשך, וקרב קץ הישוע, נקום נקמת דם עבדך מאומה הרשעה! כי ארכה לנו הישועה, ואין קץ לימי הרעה, דחה אדמון בצל צלמון, הקם לנו רועים שבעה!”
“Bare Your holy arm and hasten the End for salvation. Avenge the vengeance of your servants’ blood from the wicked nation. For the triumph is too long delayed for us, and there is no end to days of evil! Repel the Red One in the nethermost shadow and establish for us the seven shepherds!”