By Doni Joszef
Much of what Sandy wrought on our community—physically, financially, psychologically, and emotionally—remains as a fresh wound upon tender flesh. But what Sandy sabotaged materially, its aftermath has sublimated spiritually. As a community, we have risen to the occasion (and then some).
Forced to accept the dictates of what’s unchangeable, we’ve glowingly demonstrated a commitment unshakable. The sequence of events paves a perfect pathway for the sacred sentiments of Chanukah.
• • •
Recovering alcoholics like to conclude their meetings with a short, but sweet, little prayer: “G‑d, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
A nice mantra? Absolutely. But does it have anything to do with Chanukah? In fact, it has everything to with Chanukah.
On Chanukah we commemorate and reinvigorate two distinct miracles: an underdog military victory and the unexpected endurance of a small flame beyond the confines of its natural capacity. A small sect of Jews took action to change the things they could, despite the overwhelming odds against them. Yet, at the same time, we were forced to accept that which is beyond our control; we cannot create continuous combustion from a tiny jar of oil. All we can do is light the flame, and let G‑d keep it lit. And, thus, we did.
It is this bipolar balance which makes the Chanukah message an ideal educational paradigm. As many have noted, the words “Chanukah” and “chinuch” (Hebrew for education) are linguistically linked.
Rav Shlomo Wolbe, zt’l, famously formulated an educational theory based on two distinct, equally essential, ingredients: building + planting.
Building entails the behavioral aspects of conditioning and reinforcement. Planting entails the humanistic, intuitive aspects of nurturing and kindling. Raising a child involves the successful synthesis of these two crafts. Building trains a child to change that which he can; planting trains a child to accept her limitations; and chinuch is about knowing when to build and when to plant.
• • •
Why is this Chanukah different from all other Chanukahs? Because Sandy prepared us for its arrival in a way only hindsight can truly appreciate. Some of us have been forced to accept the trauma of flooded homes and flooded hearts. Others have been courageous enough to step up to the plate and pitch in—financially and emotionally, gracefully and unconditionally. As a community so heavily enmeshed in our vast array of trials and tribulations, it behooves us to take a step back and feel proud of our collective and personal triumphs. When the going got tough, the tough got going. When forced to accept the unchangeable, we garnered the courage to respond with a compassion unimaginable. There is what to be proud of here. And much of it.
Happy Chanukah. v
Doni Joszef, LMSW, is in private practice working with individuals, families, and groups in Lawrence. Available by appointment. Call 516-316-2247 or e-mail DJoszef@gmail.com to schedule a consultation.