perpetual light

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Before I knew of the existence of the sexual urge, I had a passion for life… for the continuation of life. I came to this world at a time of existential threat to my people and culture. My childhood was associated with the systematic destruction and murder of my people, including members of my own family. Don’t talk to me about it. I am still traumatized after a lifetime.

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Yael in the kitchen

But I am mentioning this subject, so as to share with you some of the thoughts I had last night, when celebrating Chanukah with some of my younger grandchildren. I have older grandchildren too, adults, who are making their own choices, and living their own lives… a granddaughter who is soaking up culture and adventure in far away India. But the younger grandchildren were assembled last night in the home of Jonah and Yael, enjoying the festival of lights with music and games, good food and stories.

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Chagit with the kids

The holiday of lights, Chanukah, as we call it, goes back to the revolt of the Maccabees against the Greek occupation in the second century BCE. The holy temple had been desecrated. Jerusalem had been overrun and defeated. And yet, when the future of the Jewish people looked most bleak, a small group of idealists, led by a priest, succeeded in revolt against a powerful nation that had defeated us. The holy temple, which was a symbol of enlightenment to us, was once again consecrated, and the temple lamp which had gone out, was relit.

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Hillel on guitar

It was a miracle. That was the common consensus. But for those who wanted a more specific description of the miracle, there were differing opinions. Some felt that the miracle was that one flask of oil which should normally have lasted just a day, lasted eight days until more oil could be prepared for the temple lamp. Others saw the miracle in the fact that a little amateur army could overcome the prowess of a great nation. One of my favorite rabbis, said the miracle was that Jews were willing to fight at all. For me, the miracle is that even after total devastation, we are able to reorganize, fight evil, clean up the mess, and find what is sacred and holy.

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David on keyboard

If you’re wondering why it took eight days to prepare the oil for the temple lamp, this is how they would do it. They would take a sack of olives, and squeeze each one. The first drop that came out of the olives was collected. And that was the oil they used for the temple lamp. The lamp symbolized the temple. In our days it is the symbol of the State of Israel. Some of our sages saw the tending of the lamp as even more important than the activities surrounding sacrifices. At our family celebration, all of the children lit their own candles.

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Arieh

As a young man, I was greatly attracted to the arts. In part because the arts connect to values which are more lasting than our own individual lives. Knowing without doubt that I personally would eventually die, I wanted to be part of something that would last longer than I did. Afterwards, when I had children of my own, I started thinking of my children as a continuation of myself. Even after I’d die, my children would continue to live, and my blood would continue in them.

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Ruth

Last night, as I sat in a comfortable chair and watched my grandchildren playing, reading, making music… I asked myself, was I pleased? So many grandchildren… living and learning… healthier and happier than I was at their age. I looked at them all. And each one was different. Each was a world in himself or herself. Each with a distinct and separate personality. Not one of them was me. But there was comfort in the fact that these children are a part of this culture I love. And that they are continuing in their own way along the path I have walked. They’re starting where I got as an old man. And they’ll get further than I ever dreamed.

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Carmel

There have been ups and downs along the way, And I’m sure that they too will have their ups and downs. Honestly, most of them are more interested in sharing with me what they are learning these days, than listening to what I’ve learned through life. But it doesn’t matter that much to me. I see a continuation of the same values I love. And that’s enough for me. We ate potato pancakes and pizza. You know, potato pancakes are part of our tradition for this holiday. And pizza… well, pizza is always a good thing…

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75 responses to “perpetual light

  1. Beautiful thoughts, Shimonz. Happy Chanukah to you and your family.

  2. Some lovely thoughts and pictures here.

  3. Thank you, Shimon for this beautiful post. It’s lovely to see your grandchildren and to know that you were able to spend such an important time with them…one I am sure that they will never forget.
    Janet.xx

    • Thanks, Janet. I don’t know if they’ll remember or forget. They’re alive at a time when there are truly exciting things happening all the time… but enough for me that I enjoyed a bit of the holiday atmosphere together with them. Wishing you a beautiful new year. xxx

  4. Beautiful photographs dear Shimon. Blessing and Happiness to you ALL 🙂 Thank you, love, nia

  5. I’m so grateful for your heart felt sharing…and as the years go by, I also think of similar things. While I’m sorry that you and your family have suffered unspeakable trauma…I’m grateful that you endured and that you demonstrate the kind aspects of the human spirit through your writing, your photography and your hopes for your beautiful family. Blessings through your holiest of days.

    • Really appreciate your sweet comment, Kathleen. I was lucky, in that life kept getting better. And so I appreciated it all the more. We get a little time on this earth, and it’s temporary… and that in itself is a wonder. So we might as well try to enjoy it. Thank you so much for your blessing.

  6. I love the photos of your grandchildren, Shimon. They are beautiful kids, and so fortunate for the rich heritage they receive from you and their parents.

    • Thanks Rick, lately, as I discover at times, how hard it is for me to keep up with all the new inventions and innovations, I realize that my grandchildren are growing up in a world quite different from the one I am used to. So these shared moments are very dear to me.

  7. So much light here, Shimon, and in all senses. So many lovely young people with light in their eyes. All best wishes to you and your family.

    • It is very sweet to see the light in their eyes… the enthusiasm of the young. I remember when we were young, we wanted to build a better world. Maybe every generation has those hopes. But nowadays I wonder if it isn’t the nature of mankind that presents us with never ending challenges. In any case, I wish them an easier future. Thanks very much, Tish.

  8. Best wishes to you and your family and thanks for sharing. I’m sure your grandchildren will remember you in years to come and keep the tradition alive

    • There have been so many changes within my life time, that I don’t dare to imagine what the world will look like in another half century. But I do hope that they will be able to enjoy life, and make the most of it. Thanks so much for your comment, Olganm

  9. The light in those precious eyes is beautiful to behold, and you helped put it there. Thank you for sharing the story. I knew about the oil lasting eight days, and I’d heard a bit about the Maccabees. I didn’t know about how the oil was collected or its symbolism with the lamp. May you and your family be blessed.

    • Truthfully, I’ve never been one to get all excited over little children. But I am always eager to get to know my fellow man or woman, of whatever age. And because of the family tie, I’ve gotten to know them a bit, and to appreciate them. Wishing you a very beautiful, happy and healthy year, Judy.

  10. It was lovely to hear the story of the temple oil, and the tradition behind the various ways it is meaningful to your history. As your grandchildren grow into young adults, and carry with them these traditions of your culture, some part of you will remain in the world. Interesting how you recognize them as extensions of you, but singularly and distinctly individual personalities of their own, carrying with them new stories, as well as the echoes of the old. They will grow and have families of their own, and hopefully, will continue to share the same traditions and the stories of your history.

    It is understandable how the continuation of the cycle of life carries such weight and importance in your culture. You can’t erase the horrors of the past, but you can, at least, bring forth a new generation with the hopes that at some point in time, the wars will fade away, and the next generation will continue to carry the stories into the future. We should never forget, even though it is painful to remember. I’m sorry to know that you have experienced such sorrow, but appreciate that you have shared your family with us today. As the years continue to march forward, it is good to know that the same stories might be being told, again and again, to the next generation, and the next. May we all remember.

    My own grandchildren are only three in number, with my first great-grandchild due to be born in January. Our family has scattered and spread to various parts of the nation, and we have no particular traditions or deeply ingrained bits of history that we celebrate each year. I’ve always been somewhat taken by cultures that perpetuate their customs and traditions, and lament that our own family carries none of that rich history. Of course, we have our own version of history, but it is not collectively celebrated with others, such as it is in your part of the world.

    It seems in our world, the fabric of the family has come undone, and although individual family members may thrive, we rarely join together for celebrations. We have largely become spoiled and complacent as a society, focusing entirely too much on our own desires, rather than turning our focus towards the needs of others. Although I am encouraged to see a slowly growing shift in perspective, and voices joined together to promote a peaceful existence, the scars that have torn our society to shreds may have inflicted too much damage already. There are small pockets of people trying to rise up against the greed and the horrors of the world, but it does often seem as if their voices are being drowned out by the sound of money exchanging hands. Still, we continue to have hope for a better future, and pray that perhaps the next generation will finally get it right.

    • To tell you the truth, Nancy, I am very aware of the temporary nature of life, and have little desire to be remembered after I am gone. Living this life was miracle enough for me. And my only hope in that vein, is that my grandchildren will have good lives, and good memories, whatever they might be. It would be nice if they continue our traditions. Because I believe that those traditions enriched me and the lives of my friends. But the way I see things, the world is getting smaller and more homogenized all the time. And I can imagine a world in which all the different traditions may merge into a new culture… very different from anything I know or knew. I am sorry, though, that the family network has become much weaker in the west. And I hope that with the passage of time, society will find a path to provide the many advantages that family life offered in the past. Thank you so much for your comment. And my best wishes for a happy and healthy year, free of any fiscal worries.

  11. It’s always wonderful to see the next generation flourishing and doing better than the one before, without forgetting how they got there. Nice to see you having such a nice time with your family, Shimon.

  12. You have a beautiful family. Happy Chanukah.

  13. … it’s all a miracle , Shimon, my friend … to us and to you … beautiful post … I love u … Happy Hanukah … always, cat. … http://www.youtube.com/embed/eNak_HkPupo?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0

    • Thanks, cat, for that very special dance, which tells us something about tradition, and even more about the love of life, and looking for what’s beautiful in our existence. With love and best wishes to you.

  14. Robert D. Hayes, D.O.

    Yes, I Did wonder what oil and how it is made. But one drop surely doesn’t burn long. Great to meet your extended family. That’s a WONDERFUL colored rug in the last image. Why are potato pancakes part of your tradition. Love the photos Shimon. May you and yours have the absolute happiest of holidays

    • Yes, Bob, you’re quite right about the amount of oil that comes from the first squeeze of an olive. That’s why it took some time to prepare the olive oil for the candles in the holy temple. Private people would squeeze all the oil they could from the olive. But for the temple, they wanted only the best. And that’s another interesting piece of information that people in the west might not know. Those candles we had over three thousand years ago, were little bowls, with a special place where the wick would lie. And they gave a constant light no less impressive than that of a modern candle. I’ll have to publish a photo of one of them, one of these days. Archaeologists still dig them up to this day, dating back to previous times. My best wishes to you for a joyous new year, happy and healthy.

  15. Thank you for the story of Chanukah, and thank you for sharing photos of your grandchildren, and your evening together. The gathering of family during holidays makes my heart swell. Sitting and looking at our children and grandchildren is a gift. One of my sons is married to a Jewish woman, and they are teaching their little son, 18 months old, about Chanukah; I know that in time, when he is a little older, he will teach me.

    • It is a pleasure for me to share these experiences, that I enjoy so much. And I too learn new things from my children and grandchildren. And it is always heartwarming and touching to be on the getting end from the younger generations. I wish you much happiness from your offspring, Angeline. Wishing you a very good year.

  16. Your grandchildren are beautiful Shimon. Happy Chanukah!!

  17. Wonderful thoughts, Shimon.

    All of the best to you and yours from Goddess and I.

  18. The miracle of Chanukah connected so rightfully with the miracle of life’s continuation – perhaps in different ways and paradigms – but continuation nonetheless. Thank you for sharing such precious pics of your younger grandchildren enjoying each other and the camera lens! The love with which they look at you as you call to each briefly for his/her attention is palpable – you can feel it. And so it goes Shimon – with miracles here and there and blessings of life.

    • There are many blessings and miracles in this life. I know… because I’ve seen miracles before my eyes. But I’m not fond of miracles, because they usually come to extricate us from some sort of disaster. Yet sometimes, I think it’s okay, these turbulent ups and downs. Because without them, we tend to take life for granted. And then, before we know it… it’s gone by and it’s over. Thanks for the sweet comment, Mimi, and my best wishes to you and yours for a very good year.

  19. Is always a pleasant and strong emotion, being in the family for these occasions. No matter how you define them… Christmas, New Year, Easter, birthdays, weddings… every culture has its own traditions. I think for you, to see your young grandchildren and adult kids it shall give you so much inspiration and inner thoughts…
    I wish you a peaceful holiday, dear Shimon, and may you always be in good physical shape, at peace with the Essence of of your true Being… Hugs :-)claudine

    • Yes, I agree with you completely, Claudine. These different holidays we have in our different cultures… regardless of the tradition or the religion, are all meant to instill similar values, appropriate to each culture; the love of our fellow man, the appreciation of life itself, and many other message that have been assembled over the years from previous generations. We can all be happy and find depth and meaning in life in common and with respect to the paths chosen by others in other cultures. Thank you so much for your beautiful good wishes. And I wish you and yours a very beautiful new year, with peace and love and much inspiration… especially musical inspiration!

  20. A pleasure to see the smiles on your grandchildren’s faces Shimon. Happy Hanuka to you and your family. My very best wishes my friend.
    How wonderful your cultural integrity remains intact. To defend mine would lead accusations of racism from the politically correct who have seen to the destruction of my culture to the point where multiculturalism means the celebrations of everybody’s culture but my own. I do mourn the loss of my country and my culture. Now even our saint’s day is barely acknowledged and the wearing of crosses frowned upon and even banned for fear of ‘offending’. It just gets worse by the day..

    • Thank you very much, Chillbrook, for your support and friendship. I can well understand your disappointment regarding the western attitude towards cultural tradition. It seems to me, that many socially sensitive people in the west, were appalled by the abuses and crimes of former generations, and so, chose to bend over backwards to accommodate the minorities in their own countries. This is one of the themes we see repeated in history; the swing of the pendulum from one extreme position to the opposite. Unfortunately, these sensitive souls reacted to the worst behaviors of their ancestors, ignoring the fact that there were many righteous people among the previous generations. But even worse, they chose the path of self effacement regarding foreign cultures, not realizing that such behavior encourages contempt among others. And like yourself, I am afraid of the very negative situation that is likely to result from such behavior. It reminds me of George Orwell’s famous joke, that some people were more equal than others.

  21. What beautiful grandchildren you have, and how blessed you are to be able to share this celebration with them. They may not be listening closely to your wisdom, but they are absorbing your presence and your spirit in their lives, and they will remember you with love long after you have passed on.

    • Thanks very much, Josie. I imagine that there are some who are more tuned in to the aged, and others who have other things on their mind. And it really isn’t that important to me. I do wish them the best; hope for a peaceful future in which they will be able to develop their talents, and learn to fully appreciate the world around them. For me, it was a great pleasure to be in their company.

  22. Ahhhhh….how lovely Shimon. Yes, I wonder what the world will be like when your grandchildren are your age, it will be different for sure, I hope it’s better.
    Your grandchildren are lovely, you can certainly tell Ruth and Carmel are sisters, such beautiful girls!
    The young rarely listen to their elders, but as they age it seems they recall our advice and experience.xxx

    • I too, hope that they will live in a better age. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in an earlier comment, history often swings like a pendulum, from one form of extremism to another. But looking back, I think there have been some wonderful advances over time. And there are many more free societies today than there were a few hundred years ago. I’m an optimist by nature, and I would like to think that things will get still better. Regarding the children though, I have to tell you that Ruth and Carmel are not sisters, but cousins. And it is a great pleasure for me to see these cousins getting along so well. Thank you Dina, for your sweet comment. xxx

  23. I am sure when you’re gone your children and grandchildren will carry you in their hearts and memories – and maybe they will only then realise just how much you mean to them. A lovely post, Shimon, and I enjoyed seeing your beautiful, happy and gifted grandchildren.

    • Thank you very much, Gill, for your kind words. I am sure that you had very similar scenes in your home, at much the same time. That too is a source of pleasure, that regardless of locality, or cultural specifics… there are universal experiences that we share and enjoy. And the light enlightens many different homes. Wishing you a very beautiful, happy and healthy new year.

  24. Oh, Shimon, you have shared such beautiful art with the world, but these grandchildren are almost heart-shatteringly beautiful; the light just pours from them…what a lovely gathering your celebration looks to be. And I love your interpretation of the Chanukah miracle, that “even after total devastation, we are able to reorganize, fight evil, clean up the mess, and find what is sacred and holy.” May it always be so and may your children and theirs, for generations, be blessed in their gifts and hold dear their ancestors’ sacred stories.

    • Thanks very much, Kitty for your sweet comment, and blessing. Lets hope that the younger generation from all over the world will find avenues to work together for the common good, and add to the true riches of our world. My very best to you and yours.

  25. Wishing happy holidays, Shimon and family … Lots of love, cat.

  26. Chag Sa’me’ach!
    A friend asked me the other day whether I’d be more interested in having a chance to spend an hour with my great grandparents or with my great grandchildren (who I don’t have, as my one granddaughter is only two years old). My answer was that I would rather spend the time with my great grandparents, but I was in the minority. Most of the people were curious about their great grandchildren. What about you?

    • A very interesting question, Rachel. I have to say, that when I was a child, my greatest interest was in the old people I got to know. I found their company more stimulating too, than that of people my own age. And through my life, I remained interested in history and the past, and found much that I could learn from. Nowadays, though, I am more interested in the world that my grandchildren and great grandchildren will live in. I don’t know if I’m that curious about the personalities of the individual great grandchildren themselves. But I do wonder about the world they’ll live in. Thanks for the thought, and the comment.

  27. I learned about your wonderful Festival of Chanukah when I still was in high school in the early 1960s. There were two Jewish families in town, with sons and daughters scattered through our classes. I have no idea how it happened, but one year our annual Christmas dance suddenly was paired with a Hanukkah Hop. We all went to both, celebrating and living together easily. How I long for those days, when differences were paired with respect.

    I didn’t know the detail about the oil being taken as the first drop from each olive. It reminds me of being taught that the first fruits — like that first drop — always should be designated an offering.

    But what I found most touching was this: “For me, the miracle is that even after total devastation, we are able to reorganize, fight evil, clean up the mess, and find what is sacred and holy.” As I watch events in our country, I pray that we will have people capable of doing the same.

    • I do believe that there are a lot of people these days, who have an open minded and friendly approach to people of other cultures. Of course, one needs self respect in order to offer true respect to others… and personal strength in order to be open to others. I am glad to hear that you have good memories of your experience in meeting my people. When visiting your country, many years ago, I was very impressed by the democratic institutions, and the friendly attitudes I encountered. Those memories have stayed with me too. Thanks for your comment.

  28. I always appreciate your posts about your traditions .. but in those one, the combination of your reflection with the focus on your grandchildren was extra special. All the best to you during this holiday season.

  29. Your grandchildren are beautiful – such a great gift. I am glad that they are walking the same path and trust that they will see their own grandchildren do the same.

    • Thanks very much, yearstricken. Yes, I am very grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to see the younger generation come into their own… to see them in their happiness. My best wishes for a very good year for you and yours.

  30. A beautiful post!

  31. Thank you for sharing your beautiful reflections Shimon. Your grandchildren are precious. Happy Holidays! Wishing you and your family much love and peace in the year ahead!

    PS: Which part of India is your granddaughter in right now? I would be glad to help if she needs anything at all.

    • Thanks very much, Madhu, for your good wishes. I also really appreciate your offer of help to my granddaughter. I suppose she is pretty typical tourist these days. She spent some time in the north, and then went to check out the south. As far as I understand she is presently in Valta Kanal, after visiting Humpi. I will forward your email address to her, so that she will be able to make contact. I know there are great distances in India. and don’t know the country myself. So I’ll leave it to the two of you to figure out whether it will be possible to get together.

  32. Do you hope for a miracle now?It’s a different time and the battles are much larger and less containable.What would the miracle be?That the Arabs would all move to Saudi Arabia or another country and leave you to yourselves?
    I hope there may be a better solution for all the people living in Palestine.
    Meanwhile I hope you had a good time watching the children play..

    • A lot has been written and said about miracles, and there are many opinions on the subject. I myself don’t care much for miracles, because they always arrive when we’re really in terrible trouble. Regarding the Arabs, I think that most of my countrymen would agree with me, that the miracle we’re praying for, is that the Arabs would start building beautiful houses for themselves, and educating their children, and investing in the improvement in life for themselves, instead of investing in rockets to shoot at the Jews, and inciting their children to violence against us. Let’s hope it happens this year!

  33. How very beautiful … your Life ! I join you Shimon in this celebration of family … May love and peace touch us all in this coming new year . xx

    • Thanks so much, Meg. It’s an honor and a pleasure to have you join us. May we all celebrate the coming of peace, and hear much good news in the year to come. xxx

  34. I wonder if anyone has ever combined latkes and pizza to make what we could call pizzke or latkizza.

    • Now that’s something I haven’t seen yet. But I already enjoy the names you have offered for this new dish. The reason we make latkes on chanukah, is to be reminded of the oil which was used in the old days to make candles. I don’t know if an oily pizza would be much of a hit. But thanks for the good humored comment, Steve. Always good to hear from you.

  35. Your post warmed me. So kind of you to share the pictures of your beautiful grandchildren. They fill me with hope.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Ibeth. So much in life is unknown. How good it is when we can do things we love to do, and look at the future with hope. My best wishes to you and yours for a very good year.

  36. Heartwarming post. Beautifully words about life and children. 🙂

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