Sunday, December 28, 2008

I'm the token Jew in my Jewish family

The family Chanukah gathering was relatively quiet this year. Nothing like the madness that ensued last year or the year before. But there was one rather humorous moment. My uncle loves decorating for the holidays - he has a giant Christmas tree. He puts up stockings for his dogs. He has Christmas wreaths and Disney Christmas stuff all over the place, and he plays really bad Christmas muzak. With the exception of the decorative Chanukah menorah on the table (he never lights the candles), you wouldn't know the family's Jewish. Case in point: He cooked up a ham for dinner, and he gave my mom and me some sliced turkey because we're the only ones who won't eat it. 

Anyways, at one point, I jokingly suggested that we should light Chanukah and Shabbat candles (it was Friday night). My mom said "Don't push your luck" but my uncle agreed that we could light the Chanukah candles. He put the menorah on a Christmas themed paper plate for the wax drip. The family had just finished a ham dinner. And no one remembered the blessings (or felt like saying them, if they did remember) but me, so I said them, with Little Drummer Boy blasting from the stereo. 

Assimalation, FTW! 

Friday, December 12, 2008

On Miracles

L shared something interesting at the board meeting last night. It's a really interesting way of looking at miracles. He said that the miracle of Chanukah was not that the oil lasted for eight days, but that someone decided to light the candle in the first place, knowing that there was only enough oil for one. Similarly, the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea was not that the Red Sea split, but that someone took the first few steps into the sea, not knowing what would happen, but believing they would, somehow, be safe.

L. pointed out that in a way, it's kind of like our work at Hillel. We don't have enough resources, we don't have enough staff, we don't have enough time, and our Hillel is a storefront next to 7-11. The miracle isn't that we have a great community and organize terrific events. The miracle is that we keep working at it, despite the challenges.

I like seeing miracles as human acts of will and faith, rather than spectacular acts of divine power.