When I was a kid, time took forever to pass. I remember wanting to be older and the refusal to be patient and wait for things to happen. I would count down days to camp when it was 300 days away, and the wait was interminable. I remember being about eight years old and being so jealous of my older cousins because they were, well, older, and I wasn’t. All I wanted to be was older, cooler, more responsible, and less dependent. It felt like it would never happen.
Things are different now. Time is flying by. Months and years tick by, my eldest child is seven, I am approaching my 33rd birthday, and it’s harder and harder to slow down and enjoy the journey, caught up as I am in its ups and downs and constant action.
I find Chanukah to be a similar experience, a microcosm of my life, if you will.
Our beautiful chanukiyot that begin the holiday with two lone candles quickly fill to capacity. The lights shine in unison brightly for one glorious evening, in fact for no more than an hour, then dim, and then vanish. Seemingly before you have time to sing the full version of Maoz Tzur or try out the new latke recipes you found online, Chanukah is over. Dried wax gets cleaned out with boiling water, the svivonim go back into their container, the songbooks go onto the bookshelves next to the haggadot, and we neglect them until the next 25th of Kislev. Such is time, and all celebration, as we make the separation between kodesh and chol.
Some of us wait around for Chanukah all year. Some for the presents, others for the fancy chanukiyot that we barely get to display (much like the adorned seder plates that get used only once a year), still others for the food and family. Whatever the reason, it is a holiday looked forward to, yet with all the anticipation, it all passes in a flash. With the bustle of our lives, and the fact that other than Shabbat, Chanukah is not a chag, it is a holiday that has to take place in conjunction with our real lives. It takes commitment to celebrate Chanukah for eight days- a commitment that is a hard one to make.
The songs we sing, the smell of latkes, the whirr of the svivons on tables, the laughter of children, they are here one day, and gone the next. We cherish the memories and the experiences in time in those pristine moments, and hold on to them dearly until we can relive them again.
My take-home? Much like Shabbat, Chanukah is about creating a space and separation to experience and feel something special. As I make my preparations for Chanukah, I will do my best to make it more than just coming home at night and frantically lighting candles and singing a few songs. Chanukah should be about warmth, miracles, the flames and glow of the candles, and the spending of time and celebration with family. I will take time to make it so this year, and savor the moments as I live them.