On This Night, Let Us Light
While this is being posted on the final night of Hanukkah, Jordan Davis Trent, of the Jordan Davis Mysteries, and her family are celebrating the first night. This takes place right after Jordan and Gray have married and they have gained custody of the three orphans they save in Clubbed to Death.
“The sun is down. The sun is down,” Kiki sang from the front hall.
Jordan shook her head. Her daughter had stood guard at the front windows as if night wouldn’t fall without her supervision. “Come into the library. We’re waiting for you.”
As soon as Kiki entered the library, Gray lifted her and swung her around before she crashed into the rest of the family. “Easy there, sweetie. It’s my first Hanukkah, too.”
A shiny brass Hanukkah menorah, with its eight even and ninth raised arms, stood in the middle of the coffee table. In the center raised arm and the one furthest from it stood five-inch-tall, slim, brightly colored candles.
Smiling, Jordan took in the happy, expectant faces of her family. “We’ll light the candles first and then we’ll talk about the holiday and what you learned about it in religious school. Since Emma’s celebrated Hanukkah before, we’ll let her light the candles tonight, and then each of you will have a chance later this week.”
“Because we have eight nights,” Kiki said. “Not just one.”
Emma struck a match and held next to raised candle. “This is the shamash, the caretaker candle.”
Once she lit it, she used it to light the far candle then returned it back in its holder. “On the first night we say three blessings. Baruch atah Adonay, Elohaynu Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu, l’hadlik ner shel Chanukah. Blessed are You, Adonay our God, Ruler of the world, who hallows us with mitzvoth and commands us to kindle the Chanukah lights. Baruch atah Adonay, Elohaynu Melech haolan, she-asah nisim laavotaynu v’imotaynu, bayamim hahein baz’man hazeh. Blessed are You, Adonay our God, Ruler of the world, who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors in days of old at this season. Baruch atah Adonay, Elohaynu Melech haolam, shehecheyany, v’kiy’manu, v’higianu laz’man hazeh. Blessed are You, Adonay our God, Ruler of the world, who gave us life, who sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.”
“That’s a lot of blessings,” Paul murmured.
“We only say the third one tonight.” Jordan glanced at Emma. “Do we turn off the library lights?”
“No. The mitzvah says we don’t use the candles except to remind us of the miracle,” she answered.
A rush of warmth filled Jordan as she nodded it to Emma. “Paul, when was the first Hanukkah?”
“Two thousand five hundred years ago, when the Greeks ruled the land of Israel.”
“At first, they tried to tempt the Jews to worship their idols. But when that didn’t work, they passed laws to force the Jews to give up their religion, sacrificed pigs in the Great Temple in Jerusalem, and told the Jews they couldn’t study the Torah.”
“But you don’t tell Jews they can’t worship or study, do you?” she asked.
“No, and many people, like Hannah and her sons, died rather than give up Judaism. And Mattathias and his son Judah Macabee hid in the hills with other Jews and raided Greek army posts like guerillas,” Emma said.
“What about studying the Torah? How did they get around that?”
Kiki jumped up and down. “I know. I know. They played with dreidels. When the Greeks came by, they sat on their books and played.”
Emma sat straighter, her hands folded in her lap. “Once the Macabees drove the Greeks out of Israel, they entered the Great Temple. It was trashed big time and took days to clean. But there wasn’t enough pure oil to light the Eternal Flame and the closest pure oil was four days’ journey away, so it would take eight days to go and come back.”
Grinning, Paul leaned forward. “They sent a messenger and lit the lamp anyway with what they had, which was enough to last one day. But then a miracle happened. The oil burned for eight whole days, and got brighter every day until the messenger got back with the oil they needed to keep the Eternal Flame lit forever.”
“Nun, gimel, hay, shin,” Kiki said. “A great miracle happened there. The letters on the dreidel tell us about the miracle.”
“And you all know Hanukkah is about rededication. It reminds us how important it is to be true to ourselves as Jews, even if it seems easier to do what everyone else around us does,” Jordan said. She pulled three bags of chocolate coins from her pocket and gave one to each child. “My mother used to give me Hanukkah gelt, gold coins like these.”
Gray returned with wrapped boxes in his arms. He handed one to each child. “These are for tonight. There’ll be more later in the week,” he said as they kids tore off the wrapping.
“Look, a Kindle just like yours, Daddy” Emma cried.
Paul gasped. “A Century of Motorcycles,” he whispered, blinking hard and rapidly.
Kiki opened up a large, brown corduroy stuffed horse with blue and brown yarn mane and tail.
Jordan blinked back tears and quickly brushed at her lashes. “C’mon kids. We have Hanukkah food. I made Sephardic honey puffs, fried in oil to remind us of the holiday.”
The children passed by Gray as they exited the library to head for the kitchen. As Jordan passed him, he grabbed her arm.
“I got you something, too,” he said.
“You didn’t have to. Just being married to you and having custody of the kids is more than enough.”
He rolled his eyes. “It gives me pleasure to give you things.” He handed her a small rectangular box. “By the way, do you know how hard it is to find Hanukkah gift paper in Lynchburg?”
She laughed. “Yeah, the only place for that and Hanukkah candles is Target.” She carefully opened the box. A pair of blue glass dangle earrings with the Hebrew word “chai,” meaning life, embedded in gold in the glass stared back. “Your friend Penny made these just for you.”
“They’re gorgeous,” she said, her voice choked.
“Not as gorgeous as the lady who’ll be wearing them.”
He kissed her. “Happy Hanukkah, Jordan.”
From the kitchen, Paul’s voice called out. “Mom, Dad, are you guys coming?”
Jordan and Gray laughed. “On our way,” she called back.
© 2013 by Alyssa Lyons