My Chanukah Sit-In

My Chanukah Sit-In

Last night I lit my first Chanukah candles, and then it was like I smeared some Elmer’s on my skirt and glued myself to the sofa.

This child needed this, and that child needed that, and the phone rang, and the new technicolor singing dreidl needed new batteries. But I was off duty.

And those sofa-stuck minutes every night of Chanukah are quite possibly the sweetest minutes of my year. They make me realize how much of my life I spend rushing from this to that. I am spreading humus on a rice cake for my 5-year-old when the 2 year-old needs an urgent tushy wipe when the phone rings with a call from my kids’ youth group when my 12-year-old can’t figure out how to switch the computer from English into Hebrew for her book report.

It’s like my life is a merry-go-round that’s spiraling out of control, about to fly off into the sky like a fiberglass-horse filled Frisbee.

And on Chanukah, for a full half-an-hour every night, I just sit and won’t budge while I watch my candles. Sometimes I’m alone, and think my annual thoughts about that little candle flickering in the darkness of my unlit living room. And how that little candle reminds me of what Hashem wants from me in this life. To shine my little light no matter how insignificant my pipsqueak of a flame feels and how dark the Pacific Ocean of darkness surrounding me appears from where I am sitting.

And sometimes, like last night, I am surrounded by my family. Last night my 14-year-old joined me on the sofa and told me a Chassidic vort about Chanukah and then she and her 12-year-old sister and I started laughing hysterically about something while my younger children gathered around the technicolor singing dreidl (somebody else found the batteries) and watched it with awe-filled parted lips, as though Mt. Hermon had started erupting lava.

And I just sat and drank it all in. Feeling the blessing of what is and the joy of this annual opportunity to be still, very still, and to count my blessings by candlelight.

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5 comments

  1. Beautiful!

  2. I always felt that way when my kids were little and now that they are grown and married – I kind of miss that feeling – but still enjoy the peace of “just sitting”.

  3. how on earth to you sit for a half hour? I know we’re supposed to, but doesnt anyone need supper around then? it doesn’t happen by itself in my house, and that’s legitimate needs. happy Chanukah!:-)

  4. To Malka, and all those out there in ChanukahLand wondering: There are different halachic opinions, but I have recently been informed by a posek that for women, the restriction from “work,” referred to as “melacha” is IN ITS STRICTEST version a prohibition against doing what you would not be allowed to do on Chol Hamoed, while in its more lenient version it’s for whatever you can’t do on Rosh Chodesh.This is not the same meaning as melacha for Shabbos. Think no writing that is not absolutely necessary, no bill paying, no driving somewhere unrelated to a Chanuka inyan, no laundry or sewing, perhaps no majorly distracting intense work like moving furniture or house cleaning. But supper? By all means! I had the same dilemma for years till I got it straight and it wasn’t always such a treat. I definitely enjoyed the forced sitting to an extent, but on the other hand, as a working mom with a narrow window of time to get a supper going in advance of the “forced” sitting(because, let’s face it, if it won’t be ready before 1/2 hr no-work time, we can add that much time to impatient, hungry little bellies, which will lead to little WW I’s triggered all over the peaceful chanukah atmosphere). It’s to keep you focused on the chag while the candles are burning for at least their minimum time – which by the way is a half hour after shkiah, so guess what? If you light earlier, you have to extend the no-work time all the way from whatever time you lit (say for example you lit 20 minutes before shkiah, then no melacha for 50 minutes). Enjoy! It’s all about recognition and honor of our women’s role in this chag.

    • Thank you, savta ima. I’m glad to hear that my personal thoughts have halachic backing!!!
      Here’s a story: we went to a bbq second night. the father was asked to put off the candle lighting because the mother had “melacha” to do (prepare for her guests)….
      in the end, the family didn’t light their candles until about 10pm!!!!!!!!

      did they do the right thing? I don’t know.

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