My friend Jill, a Jewish educator, shared with me that the literal meaning of Hanukkah is “re-dedication.” Isn't it true that every time we feel stuck or afraid, and certainly after every big life change, we must eventually set an intention to begin building again? This past weekend, I brought back our “Hanukkah Hootenanny” party after several years' hiatus. We started the tradition when my husband was alive. He loved preparing the meal and designing the recipe to create a perfect Latke. Cooking was one of his passions. The party was always filled with chaos. Two dozen children, who are now mostly teenagers, would run wild everywhere. We carried on this tradition after Eric died. I leaned on my kids and my friends to fill the space at the stove and to pot-luck pieces of the meal. But over the past two years, Covid and other concerns and efforts pulled me away from a focus on gathering. This year my daughter, now almost eighteen, asked if we could have a Hanukkah party. Her request surprised me. My daughter was the last person I’d have guessed would want other people over en-masse, as we had done in the past. During her early teens and through Covid, her room became her sanctuary, open to few. “You mean, like the ones we used to have?” I asked. “Yeah,” she nodded. My daughter’s request shed a light that challenged me to re-dedicate to gathering. I was eager, at first. Then I noticed a familiar resistance, which expressed itself in the thought that “I have to do this all by myself, and also, I can’t do this all by myself.” After a few days, and some supportive coaching to give my fear some light-filled compassion, I was able to shift. In that light I was able to remember what I already knew in my heart. I don’t have to do this alone, and also, I can do this in many different ways. The pain of disconnection is eased only when we have the courage to light just the first light. Even the light from one candle can illuminate the dark enough to take the next step.
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