Hanukkah celebrates a miracle of light.
When the Greek King Antiochus told the Jews (and the Babylonians, Arabs, Persians, and others) they had to give up their different beliefs, different ways of worshipping, and different cultures, the Jews rebelled.
In 164, led by Judah of the Maccabees, the Jews defeated the Greek army, essentially preserving their right to practice a different religion.
But when they returned to their temple, they found it had been desecrated.
Instead of enough oil to last for eight nights of ceremonies, there was only one small flask of oil, enough to light the candelabra for one night.
Yet–behold!–the scant oil lasted for eight days and today we light candles in a menorah and feast on oily foods for eight days.
I talked about Hanukkah and read a book by Laura Krauss Melmed, Moishe’s Miracle: A Hanukkah Story, to my 6-year-old son Etani’s kindergarten class on Friday. The book is about a generous milkman and his sharp-tongued wife, who is as critical as she is stingy.
When Moishe’s cows reveal a magic pan that can provide the hungry townspeople with latkes, everything changes.
“There’s no such thing as magic,” one boy said, after I finished reading.
“Yes there is or the tooth fairy wouldn’t be tiny enough to fit under the door,” a little girl disagreed, pointing to the big gap between her teeth.
Five-week-old Leone was not interested in miracles or in the second night of Hanukkah. Though she slept on my back in an African-style back carrier while I vacuumed the house and grated potatoes, by the time our friends came over she was fussy.
She fussed through the candle lighting, the latke eating, the poetry reading (we exchange poems instead of gifts on Hanukkah), and dessert.
Nothing helped–not the sling, not sucking on an inverted pinky finger, not nursing, not being bounced, not being sung to, not having her diaper changed. Nothing.
After our friends left and my three older kids were in their pajamas and had brushed their teeth, we all crowded onto our bed to read. Finally the baby was ready to settle down.
“I wish Leone hadn’t been so fussy,” I sighed.
“It’s okay Mommy,” my 10-year-old daughter Hesperus said. “Babies are like that.”
Hesperus is one of the many reasons that I believe in miracles.