What can I say. I get confused. I zip-line along the continuum of the miraculous and the mundane. Some moments I am the utterly confident embodiment of the fact that G!d is running the show. The One who pays my bills and rough drafts my scripts. The One who master-minds all of this magnificence. And then there are the equally convincing moments of smashing into a material world gone so very wrong. An authorless narrative where all that’s certain is death and taxes.
And then there’s Hannukah. In Yerushalayim. There’s the dramatic amble down my alleyway lit up by flames. There’s the nightly spiritual block-party out my door and I am once again so utterly floored by the miracles that house my days.
I mean, we have been brought home. And it wasn’t a given either. It was a highly unlikely couldn’t-have-dreamed-of-how-good-it-could-be kind of a thing. And it happened to me. And a whole slew of us too. Brought home from the farthest reaches of Gullus and Clueless. To take root. To take old family trees and f-i-n-a-l-l-y replant them in the soil of our souls. Every inch and inkling of my Israel reality is a miracle – pure and simple – and yet so hard to articulate with its deserved grace.
But at least I can try with a few snapshots of Hannukah here in my hood and the mundane people who make it holy. And if a glimmer can shimmer forth that gives word to this miraculous reality, well that’s all I really want to do with my days anyway.
So here we go. Step out the door and onto the street.
Welcome to Nachlaot, the beaming forever-scheming-for-meaning heart of Jerusalem.
1. Take it to the streets: Mine is a thin-limbed alleyway sculpted with 150 year old Jerusalem stone. It’s dark. Except for these little houses of candles. Every twelve paces or so. Around here you don’t just light candles in windows and leave it at that. We go well out of our way to bring the flames into the streets.
The most pimped out houses are built with outdoor display cases just for this yearly occasion. My handy husband rigged up this hanging contraption of light. G!d bless him.
2. Oils well that ends well.
I grew up impeccably assimilated in Memphis, Tn. My favorite Hannukah ritual was driving around looking at Christmas lights with a sugar-high on Hannukah gelt. I still get nostalgic for Christmas bling. And yet, wow, these little humble flames put all that electricity to shame. As far as the soul is concerned, a thousand reams of electrical bling can’t beat the soft timbre of these oil-based flickers. Now I do like to wax nostalgic, but it ain’t wax that anoints the Messianic moments…it’s oil yall. And we got it flowing with abundance down the Nachlaot streets.
3. Make sure to make music:
A half-block away marks the arrival at the Be’er Sheva Street Light Show featuring the Hullman Family Band. R’Barak yearly pulls out his lifesize Hannukiah with enough oil to last til morning. For hours he strums his guitar and lights up tune after tune. With all his 7 children to boot. There is a basket of instruments at his feet for all who pass by to join in the jubilee.
4. The Golden Rule – Meet the neighbors:
So by this point it’s a party already. There’s the families, the couples, the singles, but the golden rule on Hannukah – everybody mingles. I had not even met my nextdoor neighbors yet…UNTIL Hannukah hit and there we all are out lighting our candles together on the street. We bond over a roaring round of Ma’oh Tzur and drink and few Lchaims. Boom, lifelong friends. Communing with community is just an undeniably holy thing.
5. Advertise It: The Levitts. Ah, the Levitts. Their children spill out onto the street all smiley and sugary. They are the neighborhood sufganiyot-pushers toting trays loaded with homemade doughnuts. Gary L. doles out some fine red vintage to the lucky pedestrians and Mama Leah bounces a child or two on her pregnant belly and shares Torah after Torah about the light of Hannukah. Hot coco is on hand. The party is out of hand.
The Levitts take their miracle-advertising to a whole new level. They put a projector on their roof to project an animated video about Hannukah onto their neighbor’s spacious wall. Drive-in Hannukah entertainment at its best. Replete with Hebrew subtitles for roaming Israelis. My kids, with chins pointing to heaven, sit mesmerized by the movie.
And here’s a link to the featured film – lovely little video about Light – Ohr:
6. Bigger Is Better – An alley away is the famous Razel domain. The Razels are a well-known Nachlaot family of musicians and mentches. R’Yehuda Razel once happened upon this life-sized Hannukiah in the trash and redeemed it with love and gold spray-paint. Each branch holds so much oil that he sometimes finds it still lit when he goes out to fire it up the next evening. It’s so big you need steps to light it, yall.
7: Be the Light – Note that the sign on the Razel’s wall says, “Hefker – FREE – It’s the year of shmitta. Please come in to our garden and partake of our fruit trees. Grapes, louissa, fig. Come in. If it’s locked, call and I’ll let you in!”
And then there’s another Razel – Ricka & her husband Yoni and their 8 kinder. Another alley away with another 8 Hannukiyot to grace the streets. Again, replete with raucous serenades and Jegermeister and a happy-ever-after fire work display.
All a reminder that on Hannukah we aren’t just witnessing miracles. We are the miracles. The humans of Hannukah.
We are all zip-lining between the celestial and the mundane. The two opposites meet and mix in US. Just like the darkness and the light. The hidden and the revealed. All in all, it’s all IN HERE.
So Happy Lights from the Hub of the Holy.
And remember, it’s never too oily to get ready for Hannukah next year!