There are many Jewish roles to play in a home – the maker of kiddush, the lighter of Shabbat candles, the pincher of hamantaschen corners. And then there’s a role held in my childhood home by my mother, now also held by me: the de-waxer of menorahs.
If you hold this role in your house, you know it’s fraught with decisions – to pre-treat or not, to preemptively buy good candles, to freeze it off or pour hot water instead? We spend eight days layering light, building upon the miraculous. When it’s all over, we’re left with what I always find to be a tough spot in the year. The night still comes early, spring is nowhere in sight, quiet time is over and plugging away re-begins. Darkness is upon us and the menorah needs cleaning.
But I’m not always sure why?
Yes, I can hear type A friends across the globe insisting a clean-up is paramount to a new year and a new holiday celebration. Yet when cleaning my own menorah last night, I was struck by the beauty in the mess. There were colors and cracks, unexpected blending where light had merged with light. There was a reminder of my daughter being old enough to light her own candles this year, my son wide-eyed as the light had appeared. This was our first Chanukah in our new home, a reminder of a nest we’re building, twig by twig.
Our culture likes the story of a fresh start – new year, new semester, new classes, new resolutions! But especially in this new season of uncertainty in our country, the drips of our memory can be powerful and perhaps should not be so quickly erased. A memory of beauty and hope may help propel us forward. An unexpected connection from one past experience to another could be the spark of an idea we need to make a vital change.
What’s worth cleaning up in your own world – and what’s worth letting be?