As we finished lighting candles Wednesday night there was a knock at the door.
It was Jake, Zev’s near-adopted big brother from across the street. A few times a week, Jake knocks at the door to invite Zev to play basketball or to use sidewalk chalk outside. He’s a sweet kid, and with two kids now, we love his company.
Jake saw us lighting candles. He seemed intrigued. “Are you putting an elf on the shelf?” he asked. Perplexed by the question, I explained to Jake that we were Jewish and celebrating Chanukah. “Chanukagaga?, asked Jake, honestly (Jake is eight years old). “Is that the holiday where you get more presents?”
At that moment, I realized that Jake had never learned anything about Chanukah. After getting over the initial surprise that this could even be possible (welcome to the south, I told myself), I explained to Jake sometimes people associate Chanukah with more presents because the holiday is 8 days long. I also explained that no, we didn’t celebrate Christmas (his eyes almost bugged out of his head at that thought). I then invited him into our home to show him our menorah. Zev showed him our big inflatable dreidel, and took him back to the kitchen to have a few spins on our actual dreidels. While it was too dark for Zev to come out to play, Amy invited Jake to come back the next day to play dreidel and win some jelly beans.
When we put our menorah in the window sill in our small cul-de-sac, I wondered how significant the mitzvah of pirsumei mitzvah (publicizing the miracle), would actually be. We do not live in a high traffic neighborhood. There are only fifteen homes on our street. Cars do not drive by. Who would we be publicizing the miracle to this year?
However, God works in mysterious ways. Jake reminded me that in some small measure, every one of us does our part to publicize the miracle.
I expect that tonight, he’ll be back for jelly beans.