My oldest daughter recently performed in her kindergarten’s annual Thanksgiving Extravaganza. What is it about watching your kid in a school performance that turns a parent into dripping, slobbering mush? There is something so visceral about seeing your kid “up there,” shirt tucked in, braids in place, belting out songs and moving like a turkey and reciting her two lines. As the child stands there, hands stiff at her side, telling the i-phoned face audience of grandparents and parents and siblings, “our next song is ‘Run Turkey Run,’” the parent has a moment of meaning and purpose. I have made a difference in the world. My child is doing something; she is active, she is a participant, she is a contributor. It is invaluable to see your child represent something greater than herself, participate in creating meaning with others, and share that meaning with her world. That is where children shine, and that, in turn, re-connects their parents to what is valuable and important in their lives.
The winter holiday season is upon us, and it is an opportunity to shine. Chanukah, probably the most celebrated and public of all Jewish holidays, has two core components to its celebration. The first is lighting Chanukah candles, one candle on the first night, two on the second, three on the third, increasing the light and the candles until eight burn bright on the last night. The second, as important as the first, is publicizing the celebration of the holiday. That is why it is customary to light candles in the windows or doorframes, so that passer-bys can see, and say, “Look! The lights of Chanukah!” As we remind ourselves as a Jewish community of our story of survival, we share that story with others.