Families lead busy lives, often running from one activity to another. It is not easy to fit in sports, play dates, music lessons, dinner, and homework in the few hours between school and bedtime. By December, young families may feel exhausted. Is it possible to pause for Hanukkah? Could eight days of candle-lighting become an opportunity to slow down, reflect, discuss, and share?

Unlike Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, Hanukkah is not observed in the synagogue through long religious services. Unlike Passover, it does not require extensive preparation. We don’t dress up in costume the way we do on Purim or build an outdoor structure the way we do on Sukkot. 

By contrast, Hanukkah is simple: Candles, gifts, potato pancakes, and jelly doughnuts. What’s more, it is customary not to work while the candles in the menorah are burning. The average Hanukkah candle lasts less than an hour. This is the perfect amount of time to spin the dreidel or play a board game together as a family. The Hanukkah lights can help us be mindful of the ones we love and to appreciate each moment in their presence.

My book, Light the Menorah: A Hanukkah Handbook, contains a poem and a reflection for each night of the holiday. The poem for the fifth night encourages families to savor the moments while the candles burn.  

The poem for the third night in Light the Menorah: A Hanukkah Handbook asks readers to watch for wonders, just as the Maccabees watched the miracle of the oil grow with each passing day. In the Hanukkah story, the impossible became possible. And as we light a new candle each night, we see the light expanding. Hanukkah can remind us to consider the miracles, large and small, in our lives. It can prompt us to take every opportunity to add our light to this world. 

Finally, Hanukkah can also be a time for study, to learn more about the rich history of the Jewish people. Do you know why Jews play dreidel at Hanukkah time? Did women play a role in the Hanukkah story? What does the word, “Hanukkah,” mean in Hebrew? Who was Mattathias? Why is Hanukkah celebrated on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev?

For a fun way to test your knowledge while the candles are glowing, please visit my website and download a PDF document called Hanukkah Trivia Fun! All the answers are in the back matter of Light the Menorah: A Hanukkah Handbook. http://jacquelinejules.com/hanukkah_trivia.pdf

BIO: Jacqueline Jules is the award-winning author of many children’s books including four Sydney Taylor Honor books and two National Jewish Book Award finalists. Her books include The Hardest Word, Goodnight Sh’ma, Picnic at Camp Shalom, Sarah Laughs, Never Say a Mean Word Again, The Generous Fish, and Once Upon a Shabbos. She lives in Northern Virginia. Visit her online at www.jacquelinejules.com