The Subtle Message of Hanukah

This past Thursday night Adina and I were sitting around enjoying the Hanukah candles. Yishama, our middle child, is transitioning out of his day time nap. That is to say that he probably does not need a nap any more, but seeing that he is getting one at day care it did not seem so strange that he came out to sit with us. So there we were, all three of us enjoying the last moments of the candles. Yishama pointed at the candles saying, ” That one is big, that one is small, and that one is subtle.” What? How in the world might a 3 year-old know the word subtle? He repeated, ” That one is subtle”. I asked him what subtle meant? Yishama looked at me and gesticulated as he said, “Super-medium”.

I am not 100% sure what he meant, but given the fact that he is 3 years-old I will let it slide. But with further consideration, the meaning of Hanukah itself is rather subtle. Hanukah is not the story 0f David beating Goliath, us versus them, or the story of religious fanatics crushing the power play of the reformers.  How can we create a new national myth that makes it possible to  reconcile post civil war? For this we truly need a subtle message.

Today with all of our internecine fighting we need a more subtle meaning of the word subtle. ” Super- Medium” will just not do.  To heal the wounds of all of our infighting we need to find a way to communicate ideas that are fine, delicate, requiring mental acuteness, skillful, and clever.

Nine years ago this past Shabbat an Orthodox Rabbinical student met a Reform Cantorial Student. Like a scene out of Westside Story, they were not supposed to meet, their relationship was not supposed to work out, and for sure they were not supposed to live happily ever after with three children. But, we did. And I for one assume our ability to get past the stuff that was supposed to divide us had to do with the unique nature of my wife Adina. The highest compliment is that she truly lives up to the meaning of her name, subtle. Adina is not “Super- medium”, she is just super.

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