I’m one of those women who can’t sit still. I like to be busy—doing things, going places, making things with my hands. I enjoy creating. I enjoy doing.

This past spring my mother in-law became very ill, and like always, I shifted into my “doing” gear: sending e‑mails to friends asking them to pray, getting my husband a ticket to see his mother, calling experts and doctors, arranging for this, taking care of that. The whole spring and summer long, as my husband flew back and forth to be with her, as I tossed and turned in an anguished sleep, as I cried in despair, I kept doing.

“What can I do for you?” I kept asking my husband.

His words knocked me off my feet

One day he answered me, “I don’t want you to do anything. I don’t need you to do anything. I just need you to be present. I want you to be with me, and not do.”

His words knocked me off my feet.

“What do you mean? I’m always here. I’m with you in everything.”

“You’re here physically, but you’re not present. You’re always busy doing something.”

I had to think about his words. They were hard to listen to, but the more that I thought about it, the more I knew that he was right. It’s easy for me to cook and clean, arrange for things and do the shopping, make phone calls and give baths, but it’s not so easy for me to be present while I’m doing these things. I’m serving lunch, but I’m thinking about the laundry. I’m playing a game with my children, and I’m thinking about the client that I need to call or the class that I want to teach. I’m always worrying about this person or that person. My hands are engaged in a thousand activities at any given time, and my head is occupied with a thousand and one different thoughts. He’s right. I’m here, but I’m not here.

There’s really only one time of the year that I’m truly present. It’s Chanukah time. It’s the time after we’ve lit our candles, when I spend a few minutes just gazing into the flames.

On the surface, Chanukah appears to be a very simple holiday. There’s no spring cleaning (yay!), no big meals to cook for, and no major expenses or preparations involved. All you need are some wicks, oil (or candles) and a holder. There are customs to eat oily and dairy foods, and it’s wonderful to play dreidel and sing songs and dance, but really, the only commandment of Chanukah is to light the candles and watch them burn. Pretty simple, right?

The Chanukah story is well known. Many years ago, the Greeks took over the land of Israel. They prohibited the Jews from learning Torah, keeping the Sabbath, performing circumcisions and sanctifying the new month. One man, Mattathias ben Johanan the Priest, stood up against the tyranny and On the surface, Chanukah appears to be a very simple holidaythe evil decrees and cried, “Whoever is for G‑d, come with me!” A small group of Jews joined him, and they waged war against the numerous Greeks. Miraculously, they won the war. They then went back to the Holy Temple and tried to make order from all the havoc and destruction that the Greeks had caused. They searched and searched for pure, untouched olive oil to light the golden menorah. They found one small flask, a day’s worth of oil. The oil miraculously lasted eight days, and hence we light our menorahs today for eight days in commemoration of the miracle of the oil. But what about the miracle of the war? The weak fighting against the mighty, the few defeating the many?

The miracle of the war is actually also memorialized through the candles that we light.

How is it that the Jews won the war? It was obviously not a logical defeat; their victory would not have been possible if not for G‑d’s hand. So, what was their role? What did they do? They were present. Their battle cry was, “Whoever is for G‑d, come with me!” They were saying, in effect, “G‑d, I’m here. I’m present. I’m with You. No person, no one thing, can distract me or take me away from serving You.”

What does G‑d ask of us when we light our menorahs? A simple thing that’s really not so simple. He wants us to be with Him. He wants us to gaze into the flames. No plans, no worries, no distractions. It’s just Him and us. This is Chanukah. This is the light in the darkness. This is the type of relationship that enhances marriages and brings children closer to their parents. It’s simple and it’s profound. It’s being present.