Tell me again - they asked...all wide-eyed and wondering. Tell me the story.
And so - once and again - I began to tell the story of Chanukah. About the uprising of the Jews against their Hellenic oppressors. About their unprecedented and unexpected victory. About the scant drop of oil that shouldn't have lasted for any more than a few hours...but that burned brightly for eight whole days and nights.
Yes - it was a miracle.
History has repeated itself over and over and over again. In the days of the Spanish Inquisition...in those of the pogroms of eastern Europe..of the Holocaust. The times and settings are always different. The stories are much the same. The ignorance..the oppression..the hate...the war.
But as I was crafting my response to their queries ...I thought - too - of all the kindness that has been offered over the centuries. Mostly in quiet..in secret dark corners and back alleys..often un-noticed and rarely - if ever - acknowledged.
I thought of the captains of the wooden ships who steered their Jewish stow-aways to safe harbors when fleeing their Spanish Inquisitors. Acts of courage and bravery. And - kindness.
I thought of those prison guards in the shtetls in Eastern Europe who chose - against all orders to the contrary - to look the other way. To allow their Jewish prisoners the gift of lighting their candles and celebrating their holiday. To give them the dignity and respect of practicing their religion. In their way.
And - I thought of those who in the darkest moments of the Nazi reign and rule - took in all of those Jewish children. Who clothed and fed and hid them. In spite of the risk to their own lives...they rescued and saved lives that might otherwise have been lost. I thought about their courage in the face of fear...and their un-ending belief in the power of love. And yes - kindness.
So this year - when I began again to tell this story. This one that we re-visit and repeat year after year - I thought to tell not only the story of our right and our fight to survive...but to tell the story of those who reached out. Who offered their homes..their hearts. Who - in spite of the enormous pressures to do otherwise - chose something other.
Peace over war.
Love over hate.
On this second day of eight - I'm choosing to believe that the true miracle is in the kindness of strangers. In the hands that reached out..in the hearts that opened...in the acts of true bravery and hope and love and courage.
There's a lot of bad out there...but oh - there really is so much good.
And so...and in answer to their wide-eyed wonder - as we light our candles and sing our celebratory songs and prayers. As we dip our latkes in sweet applesauce...and spin our dreidles. As we join in with others all over the world. That's the story I'm telling. This year.