It was extremely cold, especially as the sun went down. In true Ohio fashion, the rain couldn't quite commit, and was just shedding a fine mist. When the Rabbi lit the shamash candle (the middle, or 'helper') on the giant menorah, the two little boys standing in front of me began a fierce debate as to whether or not it would stay lit. The flame shrank and guttered. 'It's already out!' one of the boys cried. The adults standing around where all watching a repeating the blessings, but there was a certain amount of tension. Being the first such public event, everyone wanted it to go well.
'No,' said the smaller boy, 'it's just blue and hard to see.' Sure enough, a few minutes later, the flame grew enough to light the candle for the first night. A little sigh rippled through the crowd.
I guess I just wanted to wish you guys a Happy Hanukkah, whether you celebrate it or not. It's about bringing light into the world, like the light of a street lamp on a cold night. It makes that circle against the darkness-- if you're lonely, you may feel like you only get to stand on the very edge of the illumination. But even standing with just your toes in that lucent pool is better than being swallowed up by the dark. My friends are part of what makes my life bright. Thank you, all of you, for being amazing people. ^_^ I don't know what I'd do without you.
I know a lot of people who are going through a tough time right now-- myself included. The holidays are wonderful, but they're also very stressful. Machiavellian family politics, enormous demands at work, the pressure to find the right gift... Whether you believe in G-d, any god, or no god, I think the desire to come in out of the darkness is something primal for human beings. It doesn't matter if the flame represents nothing more to you than an instance of combustion in which fuel is burned; you are all welcome by my fire.