I sighed as I looked at the Chanukah decorations on our Christian Christmas tree. A few days earlier I had carefully placed a porcelain dreidel and festive window with a brightly lit Chanukiah in the center of our Christmas tree.
It was the eve of Christmas day and our two holiday seasons, Chanukah and Christmas, share one festive day, my thoughts had you on my mind. I vividly remember one Chanukah evening I was invited to speak about my family´s history, which represents like so many that of broken German history and more so the responsibility for present and future.
But now it was time to dim the light on this beautiful small window and our electric Chanukiah, which has accompanied us through your beautiful festival of lights. The lights of your beautiful festival might have been dimmed and those of Christmas will seize in a few days as well, but there is a light beyond that shines through us into this world.
A beautiful poem of Philip M. Raskin reminds us that the light will continue to shine:
The Rabbi tells his old, old tale,
The pupils seated round.
“…And thus, my boys, no holy oil
In the Temple could be found.
The heathens left no oil to light
The Lord’s eternal lamp;
At last one jar, one single jar,
Was found with the high priest’s stamp.
Its oil could only last one day—
But God hath wondrous ways;
For lo! a miracle occurred:
It burned for eight whole days.”
The tale was ended, but the boys,
All open-eyed and dumb,
Sat listening still, as though aware
Of stranger things to come.
Just wait, my boys, permit me, pray,
The liberty to take;
Your Rabbi—may he pardon me—
Has made a slight mistake.
Not eight days, but two thousand years
That jar of oil did last,
To quell its wondrous flames availed
No storm, no flood, no blast.
But this is not yet all, my boys:
The miracle just starts.
This flame is kindling light and hope
In countless gloomy hearts.
And in our long and starless night,
Lest we should go astray,
It beacon-like sheds floods of light,
And eastwards points the way,
Where light will shine on Zion’s hill,Philip M. Raskin – 1880-1944
As in the days of old.
The miracle is greater, boys,
Than what your Rabbi told
As we as a Christian family are emerging ourselves into twelve days of the Christian festive season I know from our friendship that there is a light shining in both of us. A light of joy for the better, which we try to bring into our broken world large or small. May it kindle light and hope in countless gloomy hearts, which struggle.
Love from Bamberg on Christmas to my Jewish friend.