(Originally posted here on the Times of Israel).
Chanukah. A time of miracles. A time for family to be together.
I have always loved Chanukah. As a child growing up in Cardiff, and then London, I loved watching the candles burn down till they were puddles of blue, red and green. I loved playing dreidle and eating donuts from Grodzynskis.
When my children were little, seeing the awe on their faces as we helped them light Chanukah candles for the first time, their chubby faces screwed tight with concentration – that made my heart sing.
As they started to grow up and be busy with their own schedules, wherever we all were, we always got together to light Chanukah candles, and to sing (badly) Haneirot Halalu and Maoz Tzur. We stuffed our faces with donuts, and ate so many latkes the grease could have sustained any greasy spoon for a year.
Last year was the first year ever that we weren’t together for Chanukah. Aryeh, our oldest, had made aliyah and was lighting his own chanukiah in Israel. Until that first night last year his aliyah hadn’t seemed that real. I could pretend it was just a long vacation.
My husband lit the shamash, said the blessings, and lit the first candle. Each child left at home followed suit, the younger ones belting out the blessings in loud strong voices. They turned to me, only to see tears streaming down my face. It was like a thump in the heart – my favourite holiday was no longer, because I didn’t have my kids all together with me. Aryeh was missing.
The tears flowed every single night for all eight nights of Chanukah, and as the kids finished lighting every night they came over to me, and put their arms around me, and helped to ease the pain of missing my boy.
Tonight we light Chanukah candles once more. Tonight two of my sons will be lighting their chanukiot in Israel, land of miracles – Aryeh for his second Chanukah in Israel (his first in the army) and Naftali for his first. I don’t want to cry. I want to be happy for them, living their lives on their own terms in the land to where they have been called. But as I think of lighting candles tonight my heart clutches a little bit.
This is what happens. Children grow up and leave the nest. Most of the time it’s a wonderful feeling knowing that your children have made independent decisions and are not stuck in a world where they need their mother telling them what to do.
But Chanukah for me is about the kids, and two of them are not here. And it hurts. And I wish it didn’t. Tonight, I am going to do my best to focus on the kids that we have at home, and try to be happy for Aryeh and Naftali.
So, if you see my boys in Israel this Chanukah, hug them extra for me and feed them latkes and sufganiyot – because this year I am not there to do it.
Wishing all of you a Chag Chanukah Sameach!