Friday, December 18, 2009

I know, I know the Maccabeans

 To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season....and a time for every purpose under heaven.
     -King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 3 (with a little help from Pete Seeger)

Last week I thought I would write about Hanukkah, a holiday I have loved ever since Rayner attended the Temple Emanu-El preschool in New Jersey.  One day in 1997, my dear friend Alicia, a member of the temple, came into the house with the car pool kids, howling with laughter as she recounted Rayner's version of the happy hanukkah song, "The Maccabees" which included the above title.  That year he may not have known how to say it, but we all began to understand what it meant, especially once we celebrated our first annual "Hanukkah/Advent Lighting of the Candles" ceremony.

It is a story which bears repeating, this tale of Judah Maccabee and his ferocious brothers.  Always outnumbered and always outgunned, they somehow managed to defeat the numerous armies their Greek oppressors threw at them before heading to the temple in Jerusalem---defiled in every possible way by rulers who had heretofore offered two options, a) submission or b) death.

The Maccabees chose option c) Oh Hell No and wound up in the fight of their lives, a fight which would eventually be commemorated with latkes and dreidels, but which, at the time felt more like the siege at Khe Sanh.  It is the latter version that I have experienced this year.

Last week I was talking with a group of women about the fact that the life we imagined is often not the life we live.  As I looked at their faces, one framed by newly grown hair after chemotherapy, another, smiling despite a chronic illness, a third with eyes that tell a story I don't know, I understood again that life is a fight, that some days the greatest victory we achieve is that we are still here.  Wounded and weary, we awaken  to the unending battle of yet another day and take up our swords with the hope that there will yet be a time for peace, a time to heal, a time to laugh, and a time to dance.

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