July 12, 2024
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July 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A modernized version of the Chanukah miracle: When the Jews reentered the Temple, they found it devastated, and without any light. They wanted to light the Menorah, but it was dark and they could hardly see—and all of their phones had died, so they couldn’t use them as flashlights. Then, one Jew realized that his phone had one percent battery left, which would only last him one minute (because WhatsApp is always running in the background), but he managed to use it for EIGHT MINUTES to search for and find a jar of oil to use to light. And that’s why on Chanukah we celebrate the miracle of the [phone flash]light.

On a more genuine note, by the time you read this, it will be Chanukah—the Festival of Light (and of fried food, of course). Chanukah is always a time where our community comes together and celebrates our past, remembering the triumph of the Maccabim against the Syrian-Greeks, and the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days. It’s also a time where yeshiva day schools around the country finally give their students a few days to breathe by not giving them that many tests. I do have a Calculus test on Chanukah, so when it asks me to differentiate d/dx sin^2(x)+ 5lnx—8.5rad67, I may accidentally end up writing “candles” or “latkes.”

But this year, Chanukah feels more important to me than ever, in a few ways. First off, it’s probably one of the last years I will be home for Chanukah, as starting next year I will either be in yeshiva or college. (While in college, I might be able to come home for some of Chanukah—that depends on where I end up going—I won’t be able to be home the entire time unless it all falls out during winter break.) It feels surreal to me that this is the last year I will be lighting my menorah on the ledge by my house’s main windows, which is something I’ve done for longer than I can remember. Next year I will be lighting in a new, unfamiliar place (or, more likely, will be in a new, unfamiliar place looking for my menorah and bemoaning the fact that I forgot to pack it). I don’t know yet where that place will be, but it will be an entirely different experience—and while it’ll be special and exciting, of course, to light Chanukah candles with a new group of friends away from home, I’m sure I’ll miss the experience of being home with my parents lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, and celebrating Chanukah together. I know that this year I need to savor the fact that I’m home for the holiday, and to appreciate it more than ever.

But that’s not the only reason this year that Chanukah is more important to me than usual. To me, the theme of Chanukah ties into a lot of what we’ve been experiencing this past year, especially in recent months.

From the terrorist attacks in France both earlier this year and more recently, to the constant incitement and killings that have been going on in Israel, to the very recent shooting that occurred at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California, it feels like the world has been beset with terror and enemies far too often. There seems to be so many enemies that just want to strike at what we hold dear, just like the Syrian-Greeks struck at what the Jewish people held dear, their laws and customs. But the Jews refused to let the Syrian-Greeks assimilate them, and they fought back against the forces of evil.

I know what we’re experiencing now collectively as a world is far different from what was happening then, but I think we can follow in our ancestors’ example and fight back the same way. We need to remain committed to what we care about—whether that’s religion, family, happiness, or something else—and to protect it however we can. That might just mean staying optimistic even when things seem so dark. We can make our own “light” shine through the darkness, just like when the Menorah’s light burst through the darkness to illuminate the Temple once more.

I wish you all a very happy Chanukah filled with light! (And, of course, jelly donuts!)

Oren Oppenheim, 18, is a senior at Ramaz Upper School in Manhattan and lives in Fair Lawn, NJ. He spends his free time writing and reading, and hopes to become a published novelist and a journalist. You can email him at [email protected] and see his photography at facebook.com/orenphotography.

By Oren Oppenheim

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