Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Week 17: Menorah Lighting
When I was a kid, Christmas was the epicenter of my entire winter. (I’m embarrassed to admit how many hours I spent poring over the Sears Toy Catalog.) I knew a couple of people who didn’t celebrate Christmas for various reasons, but that was the extent of my awareness. Now, one of the best things about being an adult at this time of year is understanding that there is room in this big world for a whole variety of celebrations.
On Sunday, the fifth night of Chanukah, The Chabad Jewish Center of Northern Colorado and CSU hosted the 6th annual Menorah Lighting in Old Town Square. Lively music played as I joined the crowd gathering at the steps in front of Ben and Jerry’s. The menorah was as large as I imagined it might be, and Santa’s house a few yards away made for an interesting juxtaposition.
My knowledge of Chanukah is basic at best, and I appreciated the history and ‘how-to’s in the free guide that was available at the info table. Even so, I anticipated that most of what Rabbi Gorelik had to say would go right over my judaicaly-ignorant head. But his message was less about particulars and more about the common ground so many of us share. We are hopeful. We wish to dispel darkness in its literal and figurative senses. We believe in freedom. We want peace. (Seriously. Right now. Please.)
On a pleasantly cold early December evening, it warmed my heart to see the city government officials and the politicians who took time to attend. After a(nother) contentious election season, it was nice to know that they weren’t there to drum up votes or advance a political agenda. They were there because this is the time of year when we’re all more inclined to pull together rather than push apart. When Mayor Hutchinson spoke—he hasn’t missed a menorah lighting yet—I really felt proud to be a part of a community that embraces its diversity.
Rabbi Gorelik has a fine sense of humor, and the mood of the evening was festive. Five of the oil lamps in the menorah were lit, along with many smaller candles in the crowd. And when the kids gathered to sing traditional Chanukah songs, I’m pretty sure I saw Santa on his porch, singing along.