It’s Not Hanukkah. It’s Something Higher.
By Shimon Apisdorf
Yes, we will kindle our menorah’s tonight, and yes those lights will glow brightly for the next eight days. We will spin dreidels, eat sufganiyot and latkes. We will celebrate and we will hold our loved ones closer and tighter than ever. Because tonight it’s not just Hanukkah, it’s something Higher.
It’s Not Hanukkah
It’s something else altogether.
It’s December 7th.
Sixty-two days since October 7th.
1,488 hours since our immolated world transformed us into walking bits of jagged shrapnel.
240 hostages since our hearts, minds, and souls become an unrecognizable strangled blue mess.
1,200 slaughtered victims, among them our friend David Newman, since an entire nation—shocked, stunned, and breathless—began breathing in a different sort of way; crying a different breed of tears, greeting one another with different words, with alien encrusted smiles.
And yes, it is also Hanukkah.
Sixty-three days since a Start-Up Nation was splintered beyond recognition.
Sixty-three days since someone was saying something about? What was it? I can’t remember. I think it was democracy. Civil war. Or something like that.
Sixty-two days since we put down our four unified species, said farewell to the collective embrace of our Sukkot, and stepped into what we had no idea was awaiting us.
Something called Hanukkah.
From That Simchat Torah to This Hanukkah
October 7th, 2023, was Simchat Torah, the final day of a remarkable season of reflection and introspection; of regret, forgiveness, family, festivity, and sheer joy.
The Chassidic masters teach that while the Torah says that the spiritual season that stretches from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Shemini Atzeret concludes with Simchat Torah, the mystical sources teach that deep beneath the surface of Jewish life, experience, and history, the soul stirring chords of those days silently resonate all the way until Hanukkah.
It’s Hanukkah. But not just.
It’s still October 7th, still Simchat Torah.
Many of us, I believe all of us, prayed throughout that entire holiday season for a miracle; a miracle of Jewish unity, of renewed brotherhood, a miracle of b’yachad.
And then it happened, though not like anyone wanted.
In the blink of an eye, or more accurately, in the blink of an impossible to comprehend blood-soaked text message, we were One.
The Talmud tells us that despite the miracle of the oil, and despite the impossible victory over the Greeks, it took the sages of that era a year to decide if a new holiday should be established. For a year they pondered the question, “Did those events forever change the Jewish nation, the Jewish spirit, the course of Jewish history?” Eventually, attuned to the silent melody that is the inner music of the nations’ collective soul, they concluded that “yes,” something elemental had changed. A shift had been wrought that would echo forever. A new sort of light had been kindled, one that no form of darkness could ever overwhelm.
We may not have sages like we once did. Perhaps we don’t need them.
Because this year, as we kindle our menorahs’, we know that something vastly higher has been unleashed. The Jewish nation, the Jewish spirit, and the course of Jewish history has indeed shifted forever. Here in Israel, there are two words that appear everywhere, words that capture what has happened, and what is yet unfolding.
Those newly sanctified words translate as, together we will triumph.
They can also be understood as, together we become eternal.
Sixty-three days ago, this year’s Chanukah had already begun its emergent journey.
Tonight, Simchat Torah concludes its journey.
Tonight is where the utter darkness of that Simchat Torah, and the remarkable light of this Chanukah, commingle as One. This year we are kindling a new sort of flame. One that we must, and will, carry with us, yachad—together— and l’netzach, for all eternity.
In memory of David Newman.
Dovid Yair Shalom Neman ben Chaya and Moshe Meir.
All who knew David, all who experienced even a brief flickering of his remarkable light, forever know what light truly looks like.
And in honor of our hostages being held by darkness, in darkness.
May we see them returned to the light-filled embrace of their families, before the last lights of this Chanukah go out.
About the Author
Shimon Apisdorf is the founder of Operation Home Again, the first organization solely devoted to community-based Aliyah. He has also authored ten books that have sold over a quarter million copies and have won two Benjamin Franklin awards.
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