The Lessons of Chanukah

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Gone with the Rain and the Wind


With the year of two thousand eight’s passing of Chanukah, our thoughts turn to our childhoods, the glittering of the lights, as each day more brightness is added to our nights as we add another colorful candle into the menorah and sing the “Moosur” as we have done for so many years in the past.  The bright lights against the snow and cold outside warms our spirits as we reminisce. These lights can be likened to the days in our lives as they  light our path and are ultimately extinguished.  Our memories are able to return us to happy times when we were children and our father was the guardian of those lights and of ourselves as he protected us unconditionally from harm.  Like Chanukah we could always count on him and anticipate that the Menorah and the Moosur would be there accompanying the festivity.  As we grew into adolescence and adulthood we knew that we would be in charge as the guardian of the Menorah and would carry on the sameness and the peacefulness of what we had been taught and experienced.  We were now the spirit of the past and the transmitter of the future.

Chanukah is a time for reminiscing.  We relive our lives' experiences, our love with and for our erstwhile parents; we think about the innumerable sacrifices that they have made for us and the transmittance of their teachings.  As we grow older we examine our own lives and wonder what we could have done differently. The Dreidel is a symbol of lightheartedness, of dancing, of luck, of play.  Where it lands is not within our control.  Whether it be the “Schien, the Nun, Hay or the Gimel” is out of our control.  Like the Dreidl (“Top”) we must accept and enjoy the game no matter where the dreidel lands wherever it chances to fall. Nes Gadol Haya Schom (A Great Miracle Happened There) can happen.  It did for us at times when the oil that was only to burn for a little while burned for eight days, as the story of the Maccabees tells us; or when a minute segment of us, the Jewish population during Hitler’s times, escaped the gas ovens.  Like the symbolic dreidel, we must accept ourselves and where, with our effort, our path leads us. 

We recognize that we could not have altered our composition,  that much that we have been and done is at the core of  our inheritance, the strands of our brain, the composition of our most inner soul and of our very being. If we could really change ourselves and bygone times, who would we really want to be and who would we be?  We would be an entirely different human being, a different entity, someone who we could not recognize; we would not be the person we are, we would not be!  We obsess about situations that cannot be reversed; we spend time pondering the imponderable and often waste precious moments that are within our grasp.  

Let us be like the dreidel that enjoys the dance, the Chanukah sameness that provides stability and the  candles that brighten the Way!


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of  Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).

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