Bless the light

Happy Hanukkah—to everyone who celebrates it as well as those who do not.  For those not up on their Judaica, the Jewish festival of lights marks the historical time when the Jews got to return to their temple, their sacred place of worship and sacrifice, and rededicate it in 165 BCE.  Part of the ritual of maintaining the temple was to keep a sort of eternal flame burning, but there was only a tiny bit of fuel left over from old times.  It took eight days to press olives and make new oil for the lamps, and the legend holds that the amount of oil they had on hand miraculously lasted the entire eight days rather than the one day they thought it would burn.

The word Hanukkah derives from a word meaning “to dedicate,” and this makes Hanukkah a propitious day to think about setting intentions.  Just as in yoga it serves us to set an intention and dedicate our practice to something higher (i.e. the health and well-being of our children), perhaps today is a good day to contemplate what exactly we hope to serve, honor and/or love.

Given that in parenting we struggle to make money, time and energy last—stretching them thin to get the job done and still manage to enjoy the ride, if we’re lucky, on any given day, the “miracle” of a little (be it oil or patience) of anything going a long-enough way against all odds seems apt parenting inspiration.

The notion of ritual in the ancient Jewish temple was all based on inviting the divine presence to come hang out, as the core desire was to be connected with, guided and vivified by the sacred, unnamable and transcendent source of all things and non-things.  To our modern consciousness, the notion of dedication and sacrifice may bring to mind giving things up, superstitiously attempting to currying favor with a fickle Father God, but that was not really the crux of it back in the day, and it’s not really the point today. 

In this season, with its myriad traditions of celebrating the sun’s machinations—clipped days finding their darkest time and then reversing in what will be the half-year march to the summer solstice, this is a great time to trust and harmonize with the pattern of darkening that will inevitably give rise to renewed levels of sunlight, energy and maybe even hope and consciousness—a potential tonic for any parent.

In historical times, the 2nd temple marks a last hurrah—a hundred year period that will end with the massacre of the priests at their altar, and foreshadow Jesus who, 63 years later, will mark a harmonizing, at least symbolically, of the sun with a human possessing sun-like consciousness.  Just as Judaism is it’s own tradition and at the same time lays the foundation for Christianity, Hanukkah is more than just the Jewish alternative to Christmas, it is part and parcel with it—along with all our human journey that spans the ancient Shaman in her cave, Apollo as god of the sun, to the poetry of Rumi (“Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street.”) to the Buddha who sees through the illusion of the material world altogether.

Across the centuries big things happened that marked shifts in consciousness.  The challenge for us today is to re-ignite rote ritual with sacred and eternal spirit.  It’s not God who needs this sort of thing, it’s we humans who need to bless the light that shines on our children, and on each other, be it menorah light, Christmas tree twinkle light or green lamplight, adding our own intentions of peace, harmony and love into the mix. 

While there are those who adhere to their traditions alone and bar the door and don garlic against any and all other customs and paths, for those who might find in parenting, or even just in an attitude of loving and parenting the world, a common bridge to the collective SELF (what others might prefer to call God, and still others conceptualize as a non-divine, random and chaotic universe of whatever just is), I say let’s celebrate it all and find fellowship and trust that all parents love their children, and all children are cool with each other until they are taught otherwise. 

Call it magic, spirituality, gratitude or mindfulness, we can do more than light a menorah, eat a latke, spin a dreidel and watch kids tear open presents, we can consciously dedicate our lighting, cooking, eating and playing, our bath-times, story-times and helping kids through finals to something—dedicating to whatever we choose (including even an earnest wish to know and serve whatever our deepest Selves want)—and we can do that in honor of all our collective children.

Namaste (meaning the light in me recognizes the light in you), Bruce

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One Response to “Bless the light”

  1. Sue McLain Says:

    Hii Bruce, what a writer you are. Love the picture, say hello to Andi.

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