Sunday, December 21, 2008


Happy Chanukah! It just sounds nicer than Happy Day of Resting on the 25th, which is Chanukah's direct translation. While in different months (Kislev and December), the 25th marks the celebration of the beginning of Chanukah and of Christmas, just another one of the the many religious "coincidences" layered through history like geological strata and necessarily connected (for instance, Chanukah is not mentioned in the Tenakh, or Jewish Scriptures, but it is referenced in John 10:22-3: "Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter, and Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch.") The story of Chanukah is, for me, a story of goodness and justice prevailing against tremendous odds - but also a story of language prevailing. "And thy word broke their sword..."

The goodness for which the Macabees fought was the living language of the Torah, which King Antiochus IV and many others mocked and defiled. And the present meaning of Torah and Judaism for me can be articulated as dialogue, which is a way to community, which is a way to peace. Language, at its best, leads to dialogue, and dialogue, with or without question marks, is a constant questioning, not only of another but also of the self. Any reminder to revive a dialogue is, for me, a blessing. This Chanukah, wonderfully also the first day of winter, when the Holly*, a letter in the Celtic Ogham alphabet of trees, feels its fullest strength, has been a particularly special one for me, as it finds me, Under the BQE, rekindling a connection to a piece of my childhood, my mother's memories (and lack of memories), my father's nurturing, and a great tradition that I am entering and re-entering with great wonder and dedication.

*"In the Ogham, it was stated that the Holly was 'best in the fight,' since it helped balance both the positive and negative aspects of the self, thus revealing a new direction. It was believed to restore lost energy, bestowing the strength needed to continue toward a resolution. Despite its prickly leaves (which afford protection to the tree during winter), the Holly offered empathy and understanding within its branches and was often associated with goodwill and love. For this reason, it was frequently planted near homes for protection and to ward off evil, psychic attacks, and demons."

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