Chanukah: Sixth Night

Years ago I found an article in the Chicago Jewish News that laid out eight gifts for Chanukah, none of which cost a thing.  I don’t know the author;  I wish I did.  But for at least a decade, our children have heard one of these every night, in no particular order.  Sometimes it was the only gift they got, but even if there was something to unwrap, they got these gifts first.  I have begun re-writing them somewhat, after all these years, with adult children and a changing community and world.

Tonight is also Shabbat. It is a night of double lights, and we can never have too much light in the world.May this be a Shabbat of joy, illumination, warmth in the darkness…..and latkes!

chanukah 6

Tonight, the gift of FREEDOM

Freedom came within boundaries that stretched as you got older, and it seemed to have come in painfully measured doses. We always intended you to know and experience freedom within guidelines you can keep using as you’ve matured.  You have become an adult and out in the world of nearly unlimited independence,  so we hope you will know how to use this freedom, and how to be true to your own standards. Freedom didn’t mean just doing what you wanted.  We also hope you realize we gave you this gift  so you would be able to recognize lack of freedom in others, and work so that they too will be free.

Chag orim sameach;  Happy Chanukah!

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Chanukah: Fifth night

Years ago I found an article in the Chicago Jewish News that laid out eight gifts for Chanukah, none of which cost a thing.  I don’t know the author;  I wish I did.  But for at least a decade, our children have heard one of these every night, in no particular order.  Sometimes it was the only gift they got, but even if there was something to unwrap, they got these gifts first.  In the interest of changing times, community, and adult children, I have edited these slightly.

Chanukah-Night5

Tonight, the gift of HOME

As in, you can always come home.  As in, you can bring your friends home.  As in, this is your home. You may have moved away, and call another place “home”, but we hope this is “home home”.  You have a place in the world, with us, a shelter, both physical and psychological.  It looks just like any other home, maybe more chaotic than some, but it is your home, your safe place, where you started and where you can always come back to.

Chag orim sameach;  Happy Chanukah!

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Chanukah: Fourth night

 

chanukah 4

Years ago I found an article in the Chicago Jewish News that laid out eight gifts for Chanukah, none of which cost a thing.  I don’t know the author;  I wish I did.  But for at least a decade, our children have heard one of these every night, in no particular order.  Sometimes it was the only gift they got, but even if there was something to unwrap, they got these gifts first.  I have begun re-writing them somewhat, after all these years, with adult children and a changing community and world.

Tonight, the gift of JUDAISM

We give you Judaism, your own personal connection  with the Source and Spirit of the World.  This great gift includes spiritual strength, heritage, a strong moral code, and an incredible gift for survival.  Judaism gives you inspiration, scholarship, protection, compassion, a way to live, and a people to belong to, wherever life takes you. We give you this gift, hoping like us, you will unwrap it throughout your life,  and find new joys and questions, new ideas and old friends.  Sometimes this gift gets complicated, and sometimes downright confusing.  But we hope we are showing you how it may change in practice, not presence; how it continues to be a source within your soul.

Chag orim sameach;  Happy Chanukah

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Chanukah: Third night

 

Years ago I found an article in the Chicago Jewish News that laid out eight gifts for Chanukah, none of which cost a thing.  I don’t know the author;  I wish I did.  But for at least a decade, our children have heard one of these every night, in no particular order.  Sometimes it was the only gift they got, but even if there was something to unwrap, they got these gifts first.  I have begun re-writing them somewhat, after all these years, with adult children and a changing community and world.

chanukah 3

Tonight, the gift of FAMILY

This is what can make you feel suffocated and free, alone and never alone.  This is your blessing.  This is your four beloved grandparents, whether alive or not.  This is the aunts and uncles and cousins that seem endless, but are so dear to us, that every chance we get, we gather together.  This is the other departed members of our family that you hear us talk about.  This is what you will be to your children.  This is the crowd around the menorah and the table on Shabbat.  This is the other part of your roots, the groundedness you get when you know who you are and whose examples you can follow. This is growing up in a setting where we try hard every day to show you how much family means to us, how much we mean to each other.  We offer this gift with such joy and love.

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Chanukah: Second night

chanukah-2nd

Years ago I found an article in the Chicago Jewish News that laid out eight gifts for Chanukah, none of which cost a thing.  I don’t know the author;  I wish I did.  But for at least a decade, our children have heard one of these every night, in no particular order.  Sometimes it was the only gift they got, but even if there was something to unwrap, they got these gifts first.

Tonight, the gift of KNOWLEDGE

This includes both schooling and street smarts, and also self-knowledge. This house is full of books, and the give and take of active debate.  We read. You read.  You take classes, so do we.  But it also includes the music, the museums, the dance and the theater, the family trips and the Shabbatons.  It includes self-reflection. It’s the richness of every experience, from camping (a little!) to hammering (a little!) , baking, doing your own laundry, giving tzedakah and d’vrei Torah.  We are filling your minds all the time, even when you don’t know it, even when we don’t know it.  This gift you can keep giving yourself all the rest of your life.

Chag orim sameach;  Happy Chanukah!

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Chanukah: First night

Years ago I found an article in the Chicago Jewish News that laid out eight gifts for Chanukah, none of which cost a thing.  I don’t know the author;  I wish I did.  But for at least a decade, our children have heard one of these every night, in no particular order.  Sometimes it was the only gift they got, but even if there was something to unwrap, they got these gifts first.  I have begun re-writing them somewhat, after all these years, with adult children and a changing community and world.

ImageTonight, the gift of LOVE

This is the first thing first.  We love you. We will always love you.  This is unconditional and non-negotiable.  Gibraltar may crumble, the Rockies may tumble, but Mom and Dad will love you always and forever, no matter what.

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Vayeshev: True sight

dark eyes“I can see clearly now, the rain has gone. “

This week’s Torah portion is Vayeshev, and “sight” words are all over the place. These are words that relate to seeing, vision, and the opposite – when people can’t see what’s in front of them. We start with Joseph, of course, he of the dreams and visions.

Joseph sees himself in relation to his brothers in a couple of dreams –one in the heavens and one on the ground. In the heavens, the celestial beings (his brothers and father) are all bowing down to him, and on the ground, the biggest sheaf of grain (Joseph) welcomes the adoration of the smaller sheaves (his brothers.) As you can imagine, these visions don’t go down well with the rest of the family. The sons already know their dad Jacob favors young Joseph.

The Torah likes aural puns. When words sound like other words, we call them homophones, and they appear in a few places in this parasha. These are not accidental. Remember, the text was read out loud to the community, and people made connections based on what they were hearing.

For example, in Gen 37:15-16, we are told that a man asked Joseph, “What are you looking for?” He answers, “Do you know where my brothers are pasturing?”  The word for pasturing is “ro-im”, which sounds a lot like the plural word for seeing.

Later in chapter 38 (Gen 38:21) we’re in the side story of Judah and Tamar. Judah is the older brother of Joseph, and he has three sons. One is married to a woman named Tamar. The son dies, and Tamar is supposed to marry the next son, but he dies, too. Judah doesn’t want to lose his last son, so he sends Tamar away and withholds his 3rd son from her. She knows she is being wronged, so she takes off the garments of the widow, puts on the garb of the harlot, hiding her face, and sits by the side of the road. Judah doesn’t recognize this woman as his daughter-in-law, sleeps with her, and he promises to pay her later. Tamar asks for Judah’s staff, cord, and seal. When she becomes pregnant, and Judah wants to impose a death sentence, she produces the identifying objects, and Judah knows he is the father.

There’s a lot here, including another Torah aural pun (see what I did there….Torah ora…the light of Torah…?) Judah’s friend comes back to look for the prostitute to pay her, and says, “Where is the prostitute at Enaim?” “Enaim” is spelled like the word for “eyes.” Tamar was out in plain sight, but Judah couldn’t see that Tamar was the woman he lay with. He may have sight, but he was blind to reality.

Then, when we get back to Joseph’s story, (Gen 39:7) Potiphar’s wife “cast her eyes on Joseph” (eineha). She saw a beautiful man, but couldn’t see that it was wrong to seduce him. Her eyes led her to a place she shouldn’t be going, and she ended up accusing Joseph anyway. That’s how he ended up in jail.

How do we tell the difference between sight like Joseph’s, those dreams that come from a true place, and the sight of Judah and Mrs. Potiphar, taking us places we shouldn’t go. We have to learn to see with our hearts. Judah and Mrs. Potiphar saw things through not just their physical desires, but through their desire to cheat the rules. They were really blinded, not seeing at all.

Wishing you a sweet Shabbat of true sight, true peace and serenity.

 

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