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As I write this, there is a lot of negative energy in the world. There seems a force asking people to draw lines, point out differences, and make more divisions in the world. In this Holiday season I prefer to see through it all and look for the things that connect us. To this end I find myself looking for what the story of Hanukkah and the story of Christmas have in common.
In the book of Matthew they read:
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. (Matthew 2:1-2)
Having seem the sign of the star the Magi came from the east looking for baby Jesus. They came because this gave them hope for the future. It is interesting to compare this discovery to the Rabbinic story of Hanukkah. There we read:
What is Chanukah? As the Rabbis taught: The twenty-fifth of Kislev begins the eight days of Chanukah. When the Greeks entered the Holy Temple they defiled all the oil that was in the Temple. And when the rulers of the House of Hashmonean succeeded in gaining the upper hand and vanquished them, the Holy Temple was searched and but one flask of oil was found with the seal of the high priest still intact. There was only enough oil to last but one day. A miracle occurred and it lasted for eight days. The following year these days were established and made into festive days of Hallel and thanksgiving. (Shabbat 21b)
Looking for holiness in the rubble of the reclaimed Temple, the rebels found one small jar of oil with the seal intact. They took the fact that this oil lasted for eight days as a sign of the holiness of their reclamation of Temple. Like the Magi they saw in this oil hope for the future.
I think about this in the still of the night in the darkest time of the year. It might be hard to relate to this in our modern lives which are filled with light, but can you imagine trying to find something in the dark in a time before electric lights or even before gas lights? It must have really been a needle in a hay stack.
The adage goes, “If you do not know where you going you will never be lost”. It follows from this idea that if you do not know what you are looking for you will never find it. It is tempting in the dark times to grow complacent, but now, more than ever, we need to do the hard work of discovering and rediscovering hope. In the case of the Magi as in the case of Hashmoneans they both knew what they were looking for even if it was needle in a hay stack. We should all be blessed to know for what we are looking. In these dark times we need to be looking for a sign and we need to be looking out for each other. We all just need to find a light in the dark.
Let your little camper practice roasting marshmallows all year round with their very own plush campfire set.
Felt Campfire Set ($85.00 on Etsy)
What better way for your college aged camper to hold on to all of their hard earned camp shirt than as a blanket for their dorm room?
A Camp T-Shirt Quilt (starting at $59.99 from Project Repat)
If your camper takes every opportunity to sneak in a quick nap or some quiet reading time, why not make them more comfortable with this adorable s’mores pillow. This will definitely lead them to some sweet dreams.
S’more Pillow Warmer ($39.99 from Smoko)
Check out day 7.
If your camper misses their bunk mates, a custom set of playing cards with their favorite camp photos could be the perfect gift! Let them show off their camp memories while playing all the classic card games at camp and at home.
Custom photo playing cards ($19.99 from Shutterfly)
Take a look at Day 6.
There is always one camper who tie dyes EVERYTHING they bring to camp. They simply cannot get enough. If that is your child, this duvet cover is perfect for them! Let them dream about tie dye all year long so they are ready when summer arrives.
Tie Dyed duvet cover ($99.00 – $139.00 from PBTeen)
Check out Day 5
Your tech savvy camper may go the whole camp session without their electronics, but when during the year they are inseparable. Let them show their love of camp with these great “cabin wall” tech accessories.
Take a look back at Day 4.
As a Nutritionist, Hanukkahis not always my favorite holiday. It’s all about the oil. While I don’t believe in super low fat diets, I also don’t believe in 8 days of deep fried potatoes smothered in sour cream and sweet, sticky, doughy donuts. I’m constantly asked for healthy latke and donut recipes, or just how many latkes is reasonable to eat with brisket (10, right?), or if its okay to down a whole bag of gelt. (For the record- non-fried latkes and healthy donuts just don’t taste great, so just have 1 or 2 small latkes with a tablespoon of sour cream).
Now, I know you are expecting some sort of magical latke recipe that doesn’t use a lot of oil and is still incredible, but that’s just not possible. And although greasy latkes and sufganiyot can be delicious, food on Hanukkah doesn’t have to be just about the oil. So, in the spirit of the holiday, I want to offer you some food ideas that have nothing to do with oil (GASP!)
While one miracle of Hanukkah is the oil, another is the unexplainable and unpredictable victory of the Macabees over the Greeks. There are so many texts in the Jewish tradition that speak of celebrating victory by being a poor winner (For example, when the Israelites danced after crossing the Red Sea and witnessing the deaths of all of Pharoah’s soldiers). One of the many ways that we can respect our tradition is to challenge it, and this is a concept that I think deserves a challenge.
Both at camp and at home, we should be teaching our kids to be respectful of the other side when they win to avoid hurt feelings and shaming. Now, I’m not suggesting that the Macabees should have invited the Greeks into the Temple for a festive meal following their victory, but when we look at the story in hindsight it is important to remember the value of the lives that were lost and all that was destroyed in the battle. We must teach our children that the world is not a black and white place filled with winners and losers, but that best way to be a mensch is to respectfully shake your opponent’s hand and wish them well. With that in mind, have your latkes one night, but why not also have a Greek themed meal to honor those whom we defeated to teach our children what it means to be a gracious winner. Below you will find a delicious Greek white bean stew that will help your family honor all who fought in the story of Channukah.
Greek white bean stew
For the kids that loves a good challenge, nothing is better than the opportunity to tackle the ropes course on camp. Why not challenge them at home with a custom camp map puzzle?
Custom Camp Map Puzzle ($17.99 from Create Jigsaw Puzzles)
Check out Day 1.