Last night, as the last of the menorah candles flickered out into smoke, I felt overwhelmingly sad.
It’s not just that I love latkes. It’s not just that I got to spend some of the holiday with family from out of town. It’s not just that my husband got me an espresso machine (OK, that is maybe a big part of it). And it’s not just that my 1.5-year-old learned how to say “Hankah” and now thinks all coins are chocolate.
I didn’t want Hanukkah to end for the sake of my mental health. And I don’t think I’m alone.
I probably don’t have to tell you that since October 7, things have felt awful. Like really, truly awful. The horrific images and stories coming out of the news daily, the people we’ve lost, the families that have been broken, the communities that have imploded from the inside with division and derision, the antisemitism, the Islamophobia, the heartbreak, the fear, the pain — it’s all too much.
But then, like a beacon of (candle)light, came Hanukkah. I can’t tell you how many times my colleagues and I expressed to each other, “Thank God for Hanukkah.” We were grateful that we got to write about Taylor Swift Hanukkah parodies as a break from the harrowing stories of hostages. After work, I got to close my computer and take on the arduous task of using cheap toothpicks to scoop out the previous night’s wax from the menorah, a welcome reprieve from scrolling through my phone. I listened to “Puppy for Hanukkah,” a musical shot of dopamine, every single day. I made my own lattes (and let my mother make the latkes).
For eight whole days and nights, Hanukkah offered something joyful to celebrate. And it came at a time when that felt absolutely necessary.
We needed Hanukkah this year, not to forget what’s been going on — far from it — but to be reminded of why it’s been so especially tragic to witness a war raging on. Because there is beauty in this world. There is light. There are simple moments spent with loved ones that can fill you up for days. There is the face my daughter made that first night when we handed her a giant box wrapped in special paper that she was actually encouraged to tear. There was the glazed look of her first sugar high as she face-planted into a jelly donut. There was my sweet new friend who came over for her first ever Hanukkah celebration. There were the ridiculously soft socks I bought for myself. There was — have I mentioned? — the espresso.
Everyone deserves these moments. That’s so much of what we’re praying for, isn’t it? And while Hanukkah can’t last forever, we can remember to take stock of these moments every day, even when it’s hard, even when we’re overwhelmed by so much else that surrounds us.
So yes, Hanukkah is coming to an end. By the time you read this, maybe the sun has already set. But tonight is Shabbat — another opportunity to light those candles — and every day offers each of us a chance to seek out small moments of love and joy. Hanukkah helped to shed a sweet light. Now it’s up to us to keep it burning.