With what turned out to be a fairly weird Thanksgiving behind us, and what could easily be a bizarre Christmas and Kwanzaa ahead, here comes Hanukkah, hot on their heels. The Festival of Lights …
With what turned out to be a fairly weird Thanksgiving behind us, and what could easily be a bizarre Christmas and Kwanzaa ahead, here comes Hanukkah, hot on their heels. The Festival of Lights begins tonight, December 10, and just when I thought I’d written all that there was to say about this somewhat minor Jewish holiday, along comes 2020.
“What goes well with weird and bizarre?” I asked the dog, who was watching me dig through boxes stored in the back of the hall closet. Without fail, I haul out my mother’s menorah once a year, and her mother’s, as well, because I’m okay with being sappy and sentimental that way.
When I was growing up, we lit a silvery menorah (perhaps my sister has it?), but mother’s last one was electric, made of plastic; hideously identical to thousands of others emanating artificial light from artificial flames in Floridian condos each December, as far as the eye can see. Now, of course, I love it. Gramma’s is traditional Judaica (historical materials pertaining to Judaism) made of solid brass, also very much like the one I remember Mom helping us light when we were kids—before her growing fear of fire permanently extinguished those flames.
“This year, the Festival of Lights is more like a dumpster-fire, right, girl?” I said to the dog, who blithely ignored me, gnawing on a bone. “Now that would make an interesting menorah,” I thought, fingers flying across the computer keyboard faster than Mom could say, “Honey, use the Google.”
Hitting the internet hard, I found instructions for a 2020 do-it-yourself menorah composed of toilet paper tubes and glitter. I came across a blue and silver dumpster-fire ornament (?) for sale, replete with painted-on dreidels spinning out of control. Unwilling to give up the search, I continued to click… until hitting the online jackpot.
“Embrace the true spirit of 2020 with a dumpster fire menorah,” read the headline scrolling across my screen. “Just as the Maccabees’ oil burned eight times longer than expected,” the advertisement read, “the literal and metaphorical trash fires of 2020 seem fueled by a bottomless well of surprising catastrophes. Lean into the flames with these shirts, onesies and, of course, masks featuring our original artwork.”
“You can find anything on the internet! Wish I had thought of that,” I whined aloud to the dog, wondering if she’d fit into a onesie while wondering what a onesie was. Dharma whimpered in what might have been sympathy but was more likely (IMHO) disdain. There was a photo of the t-shirt, adorned with a menorah just like Gramma’s, but instead of multi-colored Hanukkah candles atop each stem, there were dumpsters—cute dumpsters, somehow—each different and on fire. “All proceeds support the Jewish Women’s Archive (JWA),” it said at the bottom of the page.
“Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right girl?” I said grabbing my wallet, while reading more about the not-for-profit fundraiser. I learned that the JWA is “a national organization dedicated to collecting and promoting the extraordinary stories of Jewish women. The JWA explores the past as a framework for understanding the issues important to women today,” its mission statement explains, “and inspires young people with remarkable role models, using Jewish women’s stories to excite people to see themselves as agents of change.”
“Who knew?” I asked the dog, having used the Google to look up “onesie” and decided I’d spin the dreidel and take a chance. That’s right, I ordered (don’t judge!) matching dumpster-fire menorah t-shirts for me and my dog.
When I light the first candle tonight, I’ll reflect on what we’ve all been through and wish for what we all hope will be a brighter tomorrow. Somewhere between Gramma’s traditional metallic shine and my mother’s hideous plastic shrine, there’s a space just waiting for a dumpster-fire menorah, guaranteed to arrive before Hanukkah 2020 flickers and sputters to make way for the Fat Man. Not sure I want to know what his sleigh is full of this year.
As for 2021? “Paws crossed,” as my dog would say. Let there be light.
Read more about Jonathan’s Hanukkah musings from this year’s gift guide at www.bit.ly/jcf-hanukkah.