Why I Was Crying at Yaakov’s Chanukah Party Today
I was crying at my 3-year-old, Yaakov’s, Chanukah party this morning. After a few minutes I realized the other mothers might think I was crying because of something that went wrong this morning.
But the truth was, I wasn’t crying over anything that happened this morning. I was crying over things that happened years ago.
I was crying as I watched the Russian-born mother sitting next to me singing along with all the Chanukah songs and doing the hand movements, as animated as if she was one of the teachers. I imagined her as a child, in her red pioneer scarf, singing songs about Lenin and saluting the flag of Soviet Union, which had declared observing her religion and praying to her G-d a criminal offense.
I was crying as I watched the mother I shared a park bench with one afternoon last week. After she married, it took her five years to have this son, her first child. Just a few years ago, she and her husband weren’t sure if they would ever become parents. She looked happy and also exhausted; she was up for several hours last night with her newborn daughter, b”H.
I was crying as I thought of the French mother sitting on my other side. Back in her native Marseille, her husband would cover his kippah with a cap out of fear. Today, she is raising a houseful of Israeli boys, who proudly walk the streets of Yerushalayim, their heads covered only by long peyot and colorful kippot.
I was crying as I watched the mother with the largest smile out of a gan full of smiling eemas. She struggled so much to enable her son, who has downs syndrome, to be in a regular gan, learning alongside boys his age. And as she watched him singing along, she knew her hard-won dream had finally been realized.
And I was crying as I thought of myself as a child, a student at a Quaker school in Baltimore, singing Silent Night and Come all Ye Faithful alongside my classmates. And today I am raising children who not only remember the miracles of Chanukah, they themselves, along with every other Jewish child, ARE the miracles…
Who light up the darkness of this world like living Chanukah candles, honoring the miracles of those days and these days as well.