The other night on a repeat of "Grey's Anatomy," Meredith is wooed by Finn and McDreamy, her two boyfriends. It's fun, although stressful. But McD realizes he will inevitably cause her pain, and bows out of the race. And then Meredith sees the truth: McD is "the one," not only because he's willing to give her up out of love, like in the Solomon story, but also because the thought of really, truly living without him seems impossible.
This week I also engaged in an exhausting struggle with Jacob's angel (metaphorically--the problem, alas, has nothing to do with handsome actors, doctors, or any other similar creatures on heaven or earth). I don't usually find midrash in TV shows, but yesterday realized that the answer might, just might, be the thing I was trying to push away. I may be wrong--but even if so, the insights I gained during the wrestling match make me want to sit back, light candles, and rededicate. It's worth a celebration.
And so I had one this morning, chanting the maftir for the first Shabbat of Hanukkah. It's not the most interesting part of the story, but makes me very happy nevertheless. I love singing the actual word "hanukkah" at the end and then repeating "nasi ehad layom" ("one chieftain each day") in succeeding triumphant tropes, as if to make sure everyone knew that everyone would get a chance. They bring the same gifts over and over again, which seems to be just fine with God--as commentary in Etz Hayim notes, although we all pray with the same words, our experience of those prayers, our true offerings, are unique and personal.
But the real reason this portion makes me happy: exactly one year ago at the Kotel, I read the paragraphs that immediately follow. I sing and am back on those steps with all my friends, drawing strength from dusty stones, yellow sunlight on sand, and the souls of thousands of pilgrims who stood on that same spot with their sacrifices, as well as of those who came to discover what their gifts were supposed to be. This morning the rabbi spoke of the tensions of this holiday--confront the complexities of a story about assimilation and guerrilla warfare, or ignore messy details and focus instead on children's games and sepia-tinged nostalgia?--and I will add another: do what's comfortable, or do what's right but very difficult? I hope each night's candles help reveal another facet of this and all our shadowed and complex dilemmas.