This Hanukkah we were given a gift

The Shalva Band reminds us as a world community of all the amazingness that we can be.

The Shalva Band (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Shalva Band
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When the Shalva Band performed the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” in their Eurovision auditions on prime time TV broadcast just before Hanukkah, they moved the judges and the audience to tears. As the video clip virally spread across the globe, millions of viewers were touched by their inspiring performance.
I was privileged to be part of that very special performance; as the founder and president of Shalva, I came to escort the band to their big debut. As I look back on that moment that touched my heart and made me so visibly emotional, I know what did it for me. Here I was, watching my Shalva kids all grown up, showcasing their talents
on stage like never before. But ever since I’ve been wondering, what was it that the rest of the world found so meaningful?
I believe the message of the Shalva Band can be found in the miracle of the first night of Hanukkah.
The Talmud describes that when the Jewish people returned to the Temple they found a jug of oil that had enough oil to last for one night, but it lasted for eight. The first night was seemingly not a miracle because the oil kindled naturally. So presumably should Hanukkah have been established as a seven-day holiday, not an eight day holiday? There are hundreds of answers for this great question, but there is one that speaks to me more this year than ever.
The miracle of the first day is the fact that the Jewish people searched for the jug of oil and found it. When they came into the Holy Temple it had been ransacked by the Greeks; violated, contaminated. The Temple of the Greek god Zeus had been erected in the middle of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Remainders of pigs that had been slaughtered for that Greek god strewn about. All of the vessels of oil that were used for lighting the Menorah had been broken, shattered. When they came into the Holy Temple what they found was absolute chaos. Under those conditions who would think to search for a jug of oil that is pure? And yet, they searched and searched until they found that one jug, which when they kindled lasted for eight nights.
This is not only the story of Hanukkah; it is the story of the Shalva Band musicians as well, and so many other people coping with disability whom they represent. They face the world and their lives ahead, like the Maccabees standing at the steps of the destroyed Temple, against all odds. Every day they contend with challenges that others cannot begin to fathom. And yet, they search and they never stop searching. They search to uncover their abilities and talents under what seems like layers of limitations. They dare to dream and they strive with unparalleled efforts to achieve those dreams.
And they found it; and they shared it with the world with untainted purity, joy, love, authenticity, wholesomeness, confidence – things that had been seemingly forgotten by a world which is sometimes jaded by cynicism; or worse, a world that has perhaps surrendered to mediocrity.
The Shalva Band reminds us as a world community of all the amazingness that we can be; if only we search with unwavering dedication, if only we dare to dream. This Hanukkah we were given a gift, a reminder by the Shalva Band that we have the power to make miracles happen.
The writer is founder and president of Shalva, the Israeli Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities