Tuesday, 12 December 2017
Tonight is the first night of Hannukah and it is the only night of the eight-day feast that we say the shehekhiyanu blessing.
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha'olam, shehekhiyanu, v'kiyamanu, h'higiyanu lazman hazei.
Blessed are You, O L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this season.
We say this blessing on the first night of every feast, thanking G-d for bringing us through another year to celebrate this particular feast. We also traditionally say this blessing when wearing a new item of clothing for the first time, meeting a friend we haven't seen for a long time and eating fresh produce for the first time that season. Why?
However hard the year has been or whatever struggles or hardships we have endured, we say "thank you" for the opportunity to celebrate and remember. Being alive for another year - isn't that a great blessing in itself?
The feasts are also a marker in time, an opportunity to stop and take stock of where we have been and where we are going, a reason to gather with our families. In Judaism we have this concept of holy time: for the duration of the period of time - eight nights in the case of Hannukah - we declare that this time is set apart and sanctified. Sanctified in order to remember what G-d has done; sanctified because we are pausing in the midst of ordinary-ness to celebrate the special; sanctified because G-d continues to move in our lives today.
With every other Yom Tov there is at least one Shabbat - we are forced to slow down and stop ... but Hannukah? There are no Shabbats, no "special days" as such. There are, however, eight nights! Eight nights to light the hannukiah, to say the blessings, to sing the songs, to eat food and to play games, to tell the stories and to sit in the glow of the light. Maybe because there are no Shabbats, we have a choice - we have to choose to stop and remember, choose to make the time holy.
Hag Hannukah Sameach and may you be aware of G-d's sustenance all eight nights and beyond!