Wednesday, December 1, 2010

twenty-fourth visit: Dec 1st 2010 Judaism, Hanukkah

4:45pm wednesday
lighting of the first candle of Hanukkah at
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh
5738 Forbes Ave,
Pittsburgh PA 15217

First night of Hanukkah and first flurries of the season. For me at least. (Did it snow when I was out of town last week?)
o many little people, mittens and hats. Tiny puffs of breath in the air. A blessing, the light, a song. Up the stairs for hot chocolate and jelly donuts. More singing: ten fingers clasped above our heads and we all become spinning dreidels. Hundreds of tiny people go home with chocolate mustaches and sticky fingers. Happy Hanukkah.

Hanukkah, Festival of Lights. This exact phrase is also used to describe the Hindu holiday Diwali (see 14th visit). Except for the symbolic use of light, in meaning the holidays are unrelated. ...But is anything ever really completely, absolutely unrelated? During a conversation earlier this evening, a friend of mine said to me, "We have so many surprises in our lives that are not welcome, it's just nice celebrate the good ones." Unexpected goodness. While Diwali marks the financial new year, and celebrates the triumph of wisdom and love over ignorance and evil, the return of Rama and Sita from banishment (surprise!), Hanukkah's significance comes from the unexpectedly long burning-time of a tiny bit of oil. See, the Syrians had over-taken the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem, and had been gathering there to worship Zeus. In 165 BCE, the Jewish Macabees reclaimed and rededicated their temple once again to Judaism. There was only enough oil to allow the rededication flame to last for one night, but it unexpectedly continued to burn for eight, until a new supply of oil arrived. Eight menorah candles, eight days of Hanukkah.

Here's to welcomed surprises and happy unexpecteds, otherwise known as miracles—playing essential roles in art and religion alike. Since one can't make provocative art about something already known to be true, I'd venture to say that most artists dedicate all their working hours to the discovery of little miracles. This project included.

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