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A Time to Light Your Child's Way

A Time to Light Your Child's Way

A Lesson From Chanukah


I sat down to say some Psalms and pray as my toddler pulled on my skirt. His pulling and pleading become more insistent and I ignored him. I knew his cries were a result of being tired and cranky and I had thought that he could wait. “Mommy needs to pray.”

Being ignored only made him more frustrated and he ran over to the bookshelf, a look of anger on his little round face. Looking straight at me, he took a book and slammed it to the floor, hoping to provoke me. I didn’t flinch, which was not the reaction that he wanted. He sat down to cry and I quickly finished praying.

I didn't flinch, which was not the reaction that he wanted I realized as I put my book down that my prayers had essentially been in vain. Mommy didn’t need to pray, Mommy wanted to pray and there’s a big difference. What Mommy needed to be doing, what her only obligation to be doing, was to pay attention to the needs of her toddler.

A friend of mine came to me one day exasperated. She was having a very frustrating day. At the end of her tale she shared with me that she wanted nothing more then to call and talk to her mother, but she said that she couldn’t. I asked her why not. She told me that her mother never had time for her, never listened to her. Even as a child her mother had always been “too busy” to pay attention to her. As a result she simply shut down and stopped confiding in her. She told me that she wouldn’t tell her mother about her day because she couldn’t stand the thought of being ignored - again.

From early spring until the fall the Jewish people get caught up in a whirlwind of holidays: Purim, Passover, Shavuot, the fasts of the 17th Tammuz and the 9th of Av and then of course Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah. When you are in the middle of festivities, planning, cooking, shopping, cleaning, and building, you can more easily reach a feeling of closeness to G‑d and His Torah. But then comes the cold winter months of nothingness, and perhaps, distance. However, in the middle of this very darkness, G‑d gave us the festival of lights, Chanukah.

Chanukah has two very important aspects about it: publicizing and educating. It’s one of the only holidays where we are commanded to actually go out and “publicize” the miracle. I’ll never forget seeing the large Menorah proudly standing in the middle of Union Square in my native San Francisco. I continue to be captivated by the lights as my husband and I walk the streets of Jerusalem, admiring the wicks of the many Menorah’s flickering from the windows and doorposts of every home.

I continue to be captivated by the lights

Publicizing is an easy component of Chanukah to understand, but what does it have to do with education? The word “Chanukah” means inauguration and has the same root as the word “leChanech ”- to educate and “Chinuch” - education. In the middle of the dark winter months, G‑d performed miracles for us. He enabled a few Jews to win a war of survival against the huge Greek army and he enabled the amount of one day’s worth of oil to burn for eight. Of the two miracles, we publicize the one of the burning oil.

What happens when you light a candle in the dark? It illuminates everything and grabs your attention. This is Chanukah, and this is the lesson of education. Before your child acts out and misbehaves to get your attention and before, G‑d forbid, your child shuts down and distances himself from you, ignite a spark, captivate, and get their attention.

This is the festival of Chanukah. It’s the holiday where G‑d tells us, “Hey I’m here, don’t turn away from Me. Even in your most obscure moment, I’m the flame that illuminates your way.” With the miracle of a burning light G‑d taught us this key on how to raise and educate our children. Be their light and grab their attention.

Originally from northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist, writer, and author of Dancing Through Life, a book for Jewish women. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
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ruth housman marshfield hills, ma November 11, 2013

Kislev KISS & LEV, for LEVITY, for what is, LIGHT, for letting your little light shine.


happy Chanukah! This year, so rare an event, to have Chanukah fall on Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Fall on Chanukah. They must be, LOVING each other. Reply

julie black mtn, nc,usa November 18, 2010

reflections maybe, too, reflects our desire to re-dedicate ourselves to the 'mommy we thought we wanted to be'..until it actually happened and we grew too tired of it because we do not understand its true G-dly value Reply

julie ellicottville, nY December 19, 2006

timely word I just went up and coaxed my daughter to bed. I was tired, spent, and only moments ago yelled something upstairs to her about just getting to sleep. In all honesty, reading your piece, I figured you might taking things too far. I was feeling much like you when you wanted to pray--verses needing to. By article's end, I was proven wrong and stood corrected by doing as suggested--going upstairs and being there!

I LOVE the lights of Chanukah and as we put them out, I always think "never be snuffed out!" Thank you for keeping me from doing just that. Reply

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