And the hardest downs are when you thought you were on an up.
When you as the parent are on an up, when you get all psyched up to try out a new technique to help your child, or when you finally decide that it’s time to accept your child for who he is and stop comparing, it’s an amazing feeling.
Unfortunately, often the feeling – and the commitment – only last for a few weeks. Then you find yourself back in the same old unhelpful pattern and you get really down on yourself.
That’s when it’s time to take a look at the Chanukah candles. Aside from any calming and meditative effect inherent to small candles flickering in the dark, the candles of Chanukah tell a story about your capacity to get up from any down.
The name of the holiday – “Chanukah” – comes from the word “dedication.” That’s not surprising; we all know the story, right?
The Syrian-Greeks defiled the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and issued decrees against learning the Torah and keeping certain commandments. The guerilla Maccabees fought the Syrian-Greek army, eventually forced them out of Judea, and went to restore the Temple. They removed the idols the Syrian-Greeks had brought in, purified any vessels the Syrian-Greeks had defiled, and held a rededication ceremony in which they reinstated the Temple service.
So it makes perfect sense that Chanukah is the “dedication” holiday.
At first glance.
When you take a second glance, it’s actually kind of strange.
There were a whole bunch of Temple dedications in Jewish history. If you look through the Bible, you find the stories of the dedication ceremonies of the Tabernacle, and the First Temple, and the Second Temple. Some of them were super impressive: the dedication ceremony of the First Temple reports King Solomon sacrificing 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep. Now THAT’s a dedication!
What happened during the dedication ceremony after which the holiday of Chanukah is named? The Maccabees found a few iron poles, made a makeshift menorah, and lit it.
Probably the least impressive of all the Temple dedication ceremonies.
It wasn’t even a dedication of anything NEW – it was still the Second Temple, which had a dedication ceremony, back in the day. It was only a REdedication, after the Greeks had messed things up.
So why is THIS dedication the one picked to commemorate as the “dedication holiday”?
Because that’s the whole point.
We’re pointing out that even after things have gone off, we have the ability to get them back on track. We have the ability to REdedicate ourselves.
Life is a challenge. And it takes on additional challenge when you’re raising a child with behavioral, emotional, social or academic issues.
The emotional effort that it takes to make a significant change for your child and your relationship is immense. And yet, we’re sure each and every one of you has done so at some point. You might have resolved to embark on a new, intense course of therapy. You might have resolved to give more to yourself so that you can have the energy to be there for your child. You might have resolved to appreciate your child for the strengths she has.
None of these are easy to start – and if you succeed in getting off the ground, you deserve to feel proud.
But if resolutions like these are hard to get off the ground, they’re one hundred times harder to keep aloft. Too often, we find ourselves a few weeks into a new commitment with our plane’s nose in the dirt. And then – if it’s anything like the fate of a typical New Year’s resolution – we feel down on ourselves, and then kick some more dirt over our crashed aircraft, so that we can try to forget about how we messed up. We’ll try again a different time… like maybe next year.
If you see the message of the twinkling Chanukah candles, however, you won’t need to do that.
Chanukah is the dedication holiday – the REdedication holiday.
We don’t commemorate the dedication ceremonies of the Tabernacle, the First Temple, or the Second Temple, beautiful and impressive though they might have been.
We commemorate the REdedication of the Second Temple. The getting-back-on-track after it was hijacked, defiled and messed up – big time.
That’s the message of Chanukah: You have the power to rededicate yourself.
It’s no coincidence that Chanukah comes about three months after the Jewish New Year. Resolutions are starting to wear thin (if they haven’t been forgotten). We feel resigned to a life of ups that fall down too fast.
Chanukah tells us: No. You don’t have to kick yourself – and then kick your resolutions and desire to change under a carpet until next year. You have the ability to get back on track.
It’s never too late. You never messed up too badly. You are able, RIGHT NOW, to do a rededication and get yourself back on track in a way that will be helpful to you, your child and your relationship.
That’s worth remembering, celebrating… and rededicating.