Chanukah is a wonderful opportunity not only to celebrate family and community, but also to explore how to share one’s own identity and values with others. Chanukah challenges us to ask: What are the appropriate ways to celebrate your exclusive identity? How do you do that without excluding others on the one hand, or diluting yourself and your community on the other?
These questions are pretty heady, especially for children, and can send you spinning, which is why it’s great to put them aside for a game of dreidel or a scrumptious meal of potatoes or jelly donuts or anything else fried in oil. But in our family, we also take the opportunity of having eight festive nights of eating and playing together to talk about the various “lights” we want to increase in the world, and why it is important to share those dreams and hopes with others. In today’s vibrant, interconnected world, this second component of Chanukah is so powerful to discuss with children. What does it mean to “publicize” yourself? What is the best way to do it? What can Chanukah teach you about how you share of yourself in ways that inspire and contribute to the world?
It occurred to me that on this holiday, during this dark time of year, it is almost as if we are trying to create that visceral reaction that we as parents feel when we see our children shine, that feeling of joy and connection and meaning, for the entire world. For Chanukah is a celebration of values, a reminder that a small group of passionate individuals connected to their purpose can persevere, make an impact, and contribute. Its message resonates for children – nobody is too small to make a difference, and no light that ignites the darkness is insignificant.
Chanukah is both an inspiration and a challenge to shine. It is a reminder that the feelings of vulnerable delight we have when our children touch us are feelings we should embrace, and that we should act in the world to instill those feelings in others. That we should strive to emerge, bright and flickering, in the window, exposed to all, and to stand for something. To come out on stage, in front of all of our loved ones, and increase the light.