Turning 50 and My Chanukah Candles

Turning 50 and My Chanukah Candles


I’m turning 50 next month ,and I haven’t been feeling so chipper about that, but since I heard the following quotation from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning I’ve undergone a signficant switch in the way I’ve been thinking about growing older in general and this coming milestone birthday in particular. Dr. Frankl wrote:

“The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day.
“On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest.
“What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? ‘No, thank you,’ he will think. ‘Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.”

Every year, as soon as I’ve recovered from the Chagim, I start looking forward to Chanukah. But then when Chanukah finally shows up it seems to end as quickly as it came. Night by night, candle by candle, it slips through my fingers as quickly as the finest beach sand.
Maybe that was how Shamai felt as well when, 2000 years ago, he ruled that we should light 8 candles on the first night of Chanukah, and then remove a candle each night, until on the last night we are left with one last little candle. Chanukah starts with a boom, lots of light! And then it dwindles away, leaving us feeling our way through the darkness.
But Hillel, famously, taught differently. To this day, the entire Jewish people starts Chanukah lighting one candle, and then each night we add a candle. Chanukah might be coming to an end, but the light is becoming even greater. It ends with a boom, providing a beacon of light to shine us through the dark days of winter.
Happy birthday to me and happy Chanukah to all of us!

9 comments

  1. C M Fletcher

    Avraham Avinu ‘came with his days’ in old age. Same idea. Cheer up!

  2. Yup, gratitude gets us shining! 🙂

    Stringing Pearls

    by Bracha Goetz

    How was your day?
    Was it too long and boring?
    Or bursting with blessings
    That sent your spirit soaring?

    How was your day?
    Disappointing? Well…
    How you look at each day
    Has a great deal to tell.

    As another day ends,
    How is it you feel?
    Tired, but thankful?
    -Or like you got a bad deal?

    Each day’s like a whole life,
    In miniature.
    Was it just OK?
    -Or something much more?

    Filled with uplifting mitzvas?
    Or bemoaning your fate?
    There’s still time to string pearls,
    Before it’s too late.

    Want to have a good life?
    There are not many ways.
    Just one.
    Fill up your life with good days.

  3. You are lucky to reach the age of 50. Not everyone born when you were born has made it this far. You can also be proud of your 50 years, life is not always a picnic but you have kept at it, and that is something to be proud of. I hope you dont keep complaining about your age. Being ashamed or upset about your age is old fashioned.
    Happy 50th Birthday!!

  4. Sorah Berger

    But 50 is the new 40!
    It’s really still young and its truly a bracha to reach each new decade!
    May you celebrate until 120 in good health and happiness!
    Happy Birthday!!

  5. I really liked the last part about Shammai and the way we feel Chanuka is over before you even realize. It’s true that between baking sufganiot and latkes and playing games it feels like the inspiration slips through our fingers. This idea gives new meaning to this feeling, thanks!

    Happy birthday! May you continue to be blessed and may you have the koyach to keep inspiring Jewish mothers for many more decades to come 😀

  6. Hows this perspective…. You are being born into the next half century. You are a newborn. Such a youngin… you’re still in diapers and all the 20 year olds in the second half part of the century will be there to guide you (the rebitzens, the mentors). Happy birthday and “mazal tov! It’s a girl”

  7. Dear Chana Jenny.
    You have gone through so much growth in your life. And you are still growing. It’s part if your essence. Age is inconsequential. You are on a unique journey, an exciting one, as you gain wisdom, and as you grow closer to Hashem.
    Birthdays are a time to look at our lives and feel thankful for what we have, to feel thankful for our personal journey.

    Happy Birthday!

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