Fall is my favorite season. Every year, I look forward to reacquainting myself with the section of my closet that holds my boots and sweaters. I love that morning when I step outside and it finally feels chilly enough to put on a jacket. I get so excited to make my annual switch from iced to hot coffee. Most of all, I love when my hours of planning over the summer finally come to life, with teachers, parents, and students all back in the synagogue on Sunday mornings. The quiet, introspective days of summer turn to an exciting rush of welcoming everyone back. The beautiful sounds of music, prayer and learning return.
As I am writing this, I am watching the snow fall outside my window. We have settled back into our school year routines, and I am reminded that winter is fast approaching. Of course, with winter, comes our winter holidays. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and this year, Chanukah begins just a couple of days later.
For me, Chanukah is all about the concept of miracles. As the story goes, we celebrate for 8 days each year to commemorate the oil that was meant to last for only one day yet that burned brightly for eight whole days! Each night, we light our chanukiyot (many of which were just beautifully crafted out of clay by our ECRS families) to remind us of this miracle and to increasingly add more and more light, each day dispelling just a little bit more of the darkness from our world.
Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” For me, the rhythm of our Jewish calendar, the seasons, the excitement that they bring, it is all a miracle. And it is during this time of Chanukah that I always try to take a step back from the business of the season to find gratitude and wonder in all that I have. I hope you will be able to find some space for that as well.
The value of striving to add light to the world isn’t something that just happens during this time of the year. We as Jews are tasked with being a light unto the world at all times. Ideally, we strive to make kindness and generosity a part of our everyday lives. Being mindful of “doing the right thing” goes a long way towards tikkun olam – repairing the world.
I wish each of you a Happy Chanukah. May we each find the miracles in our everyday lives and may we each strive to always add more light to our world through our words and through our actions.
Mandy Herlich, RJE
Director of Religious School