Happy Chanukah, my friends. Or Hanukkah.
Sunday night was the first night of Chanukah — the Festival of Lights — and the lighting of the first candle of the menorah. The Chanukah celebration is observed for eight nights and days, with a new candle being lit each evening.
I know all this because I was walking Moppit in Parque Juarez when I happened upon members of Chabad San Miguel de Allende lighting the community menorah in the park’s gazebo.
I missed most of the dedication, but I happened upon the gathering just as Rabbi Daniel Huebner was explaining the significance of this year’s menorah, created by artist Meila Penn.
This menorah is unlike any you or I may be used to seeing. First off, it is huge and looks nothing like a traditional candelabra. You might say it looks like an enormous bracelet connected by a “chain” of eight glass globes. The bracelet’s ”sides” have been twisted into graceful arching spirals.
One side is smooth and white. The other is a dark, unburnished metal.
Rabbi Huebner offered a moving interpretation of the menorah’s design which I will do my best to paraphrase.
We live in divisive times, he said. People with starkly contrasting opinions talk at each other, shout at each other, and do little to understand what the other person is saying.
There are two sides to this menorah, he pointed out. And, there are many shapes derived from different perspectives.
If you walk slowly around the menorah you will see it change shape — looking like a circle from here, an oval from there, an intertwining helix from another position.
When we meet someone with conflicting opinions, he said, driving the metaphor home, we need to step back and listen to what they are saying from a distance. We need to try to understand what they are saying by exploring their opinions from fresh perspectives.
What we might discover, he added hopefully, is that — just as this menorah is of a whole, made up of many parts, so too we might find in our diverse and divisive comments some sort of connective tissue, some commonality upon which we can begin building a bridge of understanding.
That is a lesson you can apply to so much these days.
Step back and listen. Step back and observe. Step back and seek understanding.
My own two cents from this: Though we are worlds away on social media, never has it been easier to be right in someone else’s face, and never have our reactions been more instantaneous. We all know the results.
Like this graceful menorah — life has many perspectives, many sides, many shapes but they all have humankind as a commonality. Let’s find those connections and build bridges.
One menorah, many faces …