Chanukah is over but its lessons are not.
One of the great lessons of Chanukah is rededicating ourselves to thanking Hashem on a daily basis –‟V’Ahl Nissecha SheBeChal Yom Imanu” 1 — for all of the ‘little’ and not so little miracles that are with us every day. 2
Thankfulness. Gratitude. Awareness.
The body is an amazing creation yet I wake into it daily and walk it about, taking it for granted. I never thought about what a miracle it was that my knee could bend … until one day it couldn’t bend, after the anterior cruciate ligament had torn. Why and how it snapped, I’ll never know. One day I was clambering about on Puerto Rico’s rocky shore, capering for the camera, preparing to leave after a successful business trip. Hours later on the jet homeward there was a moment of blinding pain and the knee ceased to function. When I couldn’t bend my leg by my own volition, I thought I’d never walk again. I was who-knows-where over the Atlantic Ocean, in the darkness, a zillion feet above the icy water, when it happened. Nobody saw anything, nobody noticed me falling onto the empty seats in my row, not even the coworker I’d spent four days with. I couldn’t fathom what had happened.
Gratitude at that pain-filled time? Yes!!!
Chanukah menorah lighting in New York City.
Strangely, I remember feeling blessed, taken care of and calm. At that moment I was spiritually-centered and had a flash of clarity. I realized that I could have been liable for a worse outcome, such as a hijacking or a plane crash and death in the freezing waters, two of the most dramatic scenarios possible. I knew that G-d had spared me from worse. G-d gave me the clarity to acknowledge His kindness at that moment where I could have despaired but instead saw His hand in the works.
After momentary searing pain I notified the air crew, assuring them that nothing due to the operation of the flight caused my injury. An unscheduled landing sent me to a Baltimore hospital where a screaming woman in the next cubicle with a dislocated her knee was getting it realigned. I wondered if that was my fate, but they released me with splints and crutches. The airline picked up the tab for a hotel room, rescheduled my return flight, arranged a cab to the airport, and I winged back home the next day. I started physical therapy and ultimately had surgery. It took a few months to reestablish nerve pathways and relearn walking. Twenty-some years later, I walk mostly unimpeded, thoughtlessly, expecting my foot to contact something solid where I guide it. Bending my knee. Walking. Little things? Actions taken for granted?
I choose to dedicate time to acknowledge my gratitude every day.
I’d like to be disciplined enough to write a daily gratitude journal. From time to time I start one but don’t carry through. Despite this, I’m able to focus on gratitude daily, even if I don’t write it down. I’ve made a choice. When I’m outdoors, perhaps rushing to the subway station past a few blocks of apartment buildings, parked cars, and piles of trash set out for collection, I whisper to the Creator, “Thanks G-d-for giving me the ability to walk.” I’ll hear a bird chirping or see one flying overhead and give thanks for the ability to enjoy its sweet song or follow the arc flight. If the train arrives after I get to the subway platform, instead of leaving a moment before I descend the steps, my lips smile, recognizing where this boon originated.
My cup is neither half-empty nor half-full.
Does this mean I see my cup as being half-full?
Chanukah commemorates the historic event of the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Rededication of the Temple itself, the edifice, required preparation of the building (i.e., removal of idols, cleaning up pig blood, restoring order) and having the proper tools (e.g., menorah, pure oil) to do so. Rededication was not limited to the structure; it required intensive preparation by the priests for restoration of the order of prayer. The worshipers, too, needed to be in the frame of mind to take on this holy duty and be immersed in the Temple experience. They reconnected with the Source of All Good in that time and place. I resonate to the message of Chanukah because it is my birthday and validates a fundamental truth: we are not in control of the world but He is.
How do I maintain a spiritual connection today? My attitude sustains my connection, and my choices produce my attitude. Happiness is my choice, satisfaction with my lot. Gratitude propels me toward happiness. It’s my choice to look at things with a good eye. It’s my choice to remember to be grateful. Those choices bring me happiness.
My cup is neither half-empty nor half-full; rather, it is brimming over with gifts and delight.
1. Part of the “Modim” מוֹדִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ prayer in the Amidah prayer, recited three times daily by devout Jews. ↩
2. Hakhel Organization, Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin – Rote Map?!?, December 26, 2014. [To subscribe: send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (leave the subject line blank) with the the words “subscribe list” (no quotations) in the body of your email message.] ↩