On Hanukkah, let's make miracles

RUNNING UPHILL: Hanukkah is only eight days a year, but each candle can ignite a full year’s worth of change. Here are the eight miracles – four global and four personal

HANUKKAH IMAGES illuminate Jerusalem’s Old City walls.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
HANUKKAH IMAGES illuminate Jerusalem’s Old City walls.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Hanukkah is only eight days a year, but each candle can ignite a full year’s worth of change. Here are the eight miracles – four global and four personal – I will be praying for this Festival of Lights:
Miracle 1: The formation of an Israeli government
The last two election campaigns have been among the ugliest in Israel’s history and served to deepen already existing divides within Israeli society, with incitement against the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) and Arabs. There have been accusations of blood libel and leading Israel to the brink of civil war, all at the expense of the people.
A third election would plunge the country deeper into national debt. According to calculations by the Manufacturers Association of Israel, the three elections combined would cost the country NIS 12 billion.
But there is still hope: If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White head Benny Gantz, or any other Knesset member submits 61 signatures of support to President Reuven Rivlin by Wednesday – the last day to form a government – and the president grants a two-week mandate to that person to form a government, we could have a leader by December 27, candle 6.
Miracle 2: A ‘cure’ for cancer
This week, The Jerusalem Post reported a new treatment developed by Tel Aviv University that could induce the destruction of pancreatic cancer cells, eradicating the number of cancerous cells by up to 90% after two weeks of daily injections of a small molecule known as PJ34.
Last week, the paper shared how researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a method to deliver chemotherapy drugs used to treat liver cancer directly to malignant cells, bypassing healthy ones – a breakthrough in the treatment of the disease and in potentially alleviating patient suffering.
And last month, we learned that Israel’s revolutionary CAR-T cancer treatment, which has proven successful in treating cancer of the blood, leukemia, might now also be effective in killing solid tumor cells coated in specific antibodies.
Despite all of these breakthroughs, an estimated 18.1 million new cancer cases are diagnosed worldwide each year, according to reports by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Further, every sixth death in the world is due to cancer, making it the second leading cause of death (second only to cardiovascular disease).
In Israel, cancer is the leading cause of death, according to a report published this year by the Health Information Division of the Health Ministry.
We need a miracle.
Miracle 3: A global response to antisemitism
Antisemitism is increasingly worrying and problematic.
Around the world, verbal and physical attacks against Jews are on the rise: Britain – up 10% in the first half of 2019 from the same period last year, according to a report by the Community Security Trust; Sweden – up 53% since 2016, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention; Argentina – 107% increase in comparison with 2016, according to a report by DAIA, the country’s Jewish community umbrella organization.
Most shocking: New York City – a 50% increase in hate crimes, according to the New York Police Department.
Some of the occurrences are gut-wrenching, such as swastikas being painted in school yards and rabbis being beaten up on their way to shul. Yet, it feels like the Jewish community and the world often view these events as isolated incidents rather than a terrifying trend that must be halted before it is too late – for the Jews and society in general.
The Holocaust was not perpetrated by a fringe group of insane Nazis. It was the result of a society wrought with religious intolerance and incitement, one that was accepting of violence against those whom it saw as different.
“Antisemitism is one unique form of hatred, but it never exists in isolation,” Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) told the Post in a previous interview. “Homophobia, Islamophobia – it all needs to be confronted.”
It is time for collective action.
Miracle 4: Confronting climate change
Admittedly, I don’t know much about how to save the planet, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that “this is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced,” said 16-year-old Greta Thunberg during the Climate Action Summit at United Nations Headquarters in New York this past September.
Thunberg called out UN leaders for talking about “money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth” while “people are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing.”
The video of her inspiring talk should give us all a jolt.
Miracle 5: Job satisfaction
The ancient Greek philosopher and playwright Sophocles wrote that “without labor nothing prospers.” Aristotle explained that “pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” Enough said.
Miracle 6: The ability to listen (and not just hear)
One of the greatest challenges of raising children in this age of distraction and multi-tasking mania is staying focused on each other. So often, one of my kids will be talking to me and I’ll find myself only half-listening as I scroll through a series of ever-beeping WhatsApps. Add to it constant interruptions by siblings and the fact that she is likely competing with dinner preparation or house cleaning, too.
“What do you think, Mom?” she’ll ask, and I’ll answer, “sounds good,” not even entirely sure what I just committed to or approved.
If we don’t stop and put away the distractions, we won’t listen between the lines. The greatest gift we can give someone we care about is our time and attention.
Miracle 7: Love
I am often struck by how quickly people throw around the word “hate.” It is a very strong term that should be reserved for Nazis and rapists and drunk drivers.
Love, however, should be used more freely, like to describe the bright orange flowers my husband brings me home for Shabbat, the smell of my toddler’s hair after a bath or the sound of my seven-year-old reminding me, “I’m so glad you’re my mommy.”
Love is tahina on ice cream, the view from my porch that is as far as the Dead Sea and a glass of red wine with a good friend.
Love is also an action, such as my husband traveling to four or five or maybe six different grocery stores to find all the ingredients I needed to make Thanksgiving dinner or his remembering to turn on the heat at night so I will be warm when I wake up at 2 a.m. to start my work.
Love is Hanukkah. Love is light.
Miracle 8: Gratitude
One of the greatest challenges I face is letting skinned knees get in the way of remembering how blessed I am.
Several months ago, my oldest daughter and I decided we were going to take on the “365 Days of Gratitude” challenge and we started a special WhatsApp conversation in which we could post one thing we were grateful for each day. Unfortunately, after less than 30 days, we dropped the project.
Research by a team at Indiana University – among other scientists – have found that the practice of gratitude makes you happier and less depressed, thereby improving overall health. Moreover, being grateful, they found, could “help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time,” wrote Drs. Joel Wong and Joshua Brown in an article in Greater Good Magazine that described their study.
God performed miracles in the Torah. This Hanukkah, let’s make our own happen.
The writer is news editor and head of online content and strategy for The Jerusalem Post.
Read previous Running Uphill column>>