Have you ever had a totally awesome experience?
I'm talking about when something is "awesome" in the truest sense of the word.
No, not like when I say, "We're having burgers for dinner," and Junior Goo Shoes says, "Awesome!"
I mean as in amazing, moving, heart-stirring, wonderful, spiritual, powerful.
This particular "moment of awe" happened last December at the end of our two-week trip to Israel. Actually, it was one of many incredible "moments" on that trip, but this one is very relevant to Chanukah, which starts tonight.
So grab a jelly doughnut and some latkes, and let me tell you the story of how our new menorah is tied to the actual miracle of Chanukah, which happened 2000 years ago.
The one souvenir that we really wanted to bring home from Israel was a menorah... the traditional candelabra used to light candles on each of the eight nights of Chanukah.
We wanted it to be really special...one that would always remind of us this trip of a lifetime.
When we finally found it, we had no idea that this menorah would turn out to be even more significant than we could have ever imagined.
For awhile, we thought we were going to come home empty-handed.
Our trip was winding down, and we hadn't yet found a menorah that "spoke" to us. But because some things are meant to be, we had to be patient.
The day before we were leaving Israel, we were shopping in an area called The Cardo.
It was Jerusalem's main street 1500 years ago. Click here for a panoramic view.
|The Cardo, Jerusalem|
There it was! Our menorah was right there in the window!
It was designed by an Israeli artist named Anat Mayer. Supposedly, when the Israeli Prime Minister needs to give a gift to a foreign dignitary, he gives one of Mayer's pieces. That's what the store clerk told us, anyway.
Not only was it beautiful, the brass overlay depicted scenes and symbols from all around Israel...which told the story of our trip.
We were sold. Or rather, it was...to us!
I won't bore you with what all of the symbols represent, but, for example, this grid represents the Western Wall...
...which is this:
Most of the symbols on the menorah were meaningful to us, reminding us of all the things that we saw on our trip.
It couldn't have been more perfect.
When the store offered to have it delivered to our hotel, we said yes, because that sucker was heavy, and why shlepp it if we didn't have to?
Later that night, back at the hotel...
Concierge doesn't have it. Front desk doesn't have it. Lost and Found doesn't have it.
And we're leaving the next night.
Long story short, Mr. Goo Shoes spends a good part of the following morning on the phone with the store, who insists they sent it...and the hotel, who insists they don't have it.
In the meantime, we were on the bus headed to our last stop on the tour. It was an archeological dig at the Bell Caves at a place called Beit Guvrin.
I have to admit that I wasn't really looking forward to it, but you know how those things go...
It turned out to be an AWESOME experience.
This was no tourist attraction, where they bury fake artifacts in the dirt. This was a real excavation. Whatever we found, was the real deal, which meant we could not keep it.
I know you think that I have veered way off the Menorah story, but I promise you, I'm circling back to it.
After we dug up some bones and pieces of pottery...
...the tour group leader explained the history of the site we were excavating.
It was connected to the story of Chanukah...
from 2000 years ago.
Stick with me here.
How did they know this? It was at this site that a large tablet was found. Think of Moses and the 10 Commandments...that kind of tablet. It's one thing to find artifacts, but it's another to find something with writing on it, that gives actual information about the excavation site.
This tablet said something that connected it to the period in time when the Jewish temple was destroyed by a mean man named Antiochus. One of the things his soldiers did was spill almost all of the precious oil that kept the temple's menorah lit throughout the night.
When the Jews came back to clean up the temple, there was only enough oil left to burn for one night, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days. That miracle is the reason we celebrate Chanukah today, and light our menorahs for eight nights.
Our mouths were hanging open. You can imagine the feeling of learning about Chanukah your entire life, and then standing on the site connected to where it all happened...2000 years ago.
Our tour guide pointed to a pile of scrap pottery, that they had tried to piece together, but couldn't. We could take as much of that as we wanted.
He suggested that we take some pieces, and place them next to our menorahs when we light them, to connect present-day Chanukah with the past.
I can't adequately describe the feeling, but it was amazing, moving, heart-stirring, wonderful, spiritual, powerful.
I was all verklempt (choked up).
And then I remembered that our beautiful, new menorah...the special one we had finally found... had gone missing. How incredible it would have been to light the menorah we got in Israel, next to this 2000 year-old pottery.
I took my pieces of pottery, and put them into my bag...
...took this awesome experience, and tucked it into my heart...
...and got on the bus to head back to the hotel, before we left for the airport.
When we got back to the hotel room, the Menorah was there waiting for us! Turns out, it had been at the hotel the entire time, but somehow had gotten misplaced.
I think I cried. Yup, I did.
So, tonight will be the first night that we light our new menorah, with our 2000-year-old pottery along side it.
We'll recall the miracle of how the oil burned for eight nights, when there was only enough for one night...
...and we'll remember our own little Chanukah miracle story, about the menorah that was meant to be...ours.
Wishing those of you who celebrate a Happy Chanukah!
And wishing EVERYONE a Happy (and safe) Thanksgiving!
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