The Corner

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Descent Into The Maelstrom


The great day approaches, with orange-level panic alerts about whether the
kids’ presents are well balanced. I worry about giving the kids too much,
far more than I worry about giving them too little. Kids have too much of
everything nowadays; I want mine to know the value of things. But then, I
remember my own parents, who were so poor they sometimes had trouble paying
the rent, but who always gave us a sumptuous Christmas, with pillow-cases
full of presents. And of course, one tries to mimimize the Christmas
afternoon bickering about which of the kids got the better deal from Santa.
A tricky balancing act.

Yesterday, off to a third-night-of-Hanukkah party given by some Jewish
friends. We all took menorahs–mine was a $7.99 number from the local drug
store, but some more creative guests had got their kids to make their own.
As darkness fell we had a menorah-lighting ceremony, for which I donned a
kippah (proper name for a yarmulke, I just learned) for only the second or
third time in my life. The ceremony was lovely, very moving actually, with
our host and those guests sufficiently well-instructed (not the Derbs)
executing a long rhythmic chant in (I guess) Hebrew. All this was prefaced
with an account, by our host, of the origin of the festival, and the proper
lesson to be drawn from it–a CONSERVATIVE lesson, according to him, along
the lines of: “Through this miracle, G-d wanted to reassure humanity that
traditional observances should be maintained, and will continue to be
efficacious, even through tremendous worldly upheavals and disasters.” I
came away wiser and more respectful, and vowing never to speak lightly of
Hanukkah again. It’s not just an excuse for Jews to party at Christmastime,
it’s a real festival with a serious message to it. And some TERRIFIC food.