December in the Chicago Jewish community means two events are fast approaching--Chanukah and YLD's Big Event Fundraiser. And when I think about these two festivals--one eight nights long and the other one really big night--I can't help but think about how they're related to each other in more ways than just their timing on the calendar.
You see, Chanukah celebrates not losing our Judaism to the larger culture--then and now. We're taught that back in the days of the Maccabees, it was a miracle that one night's oil lasted eight nights. And all these years later, even through the darkness-the thousands of years of peril and persecution--the Jewish people are still glowing bright. In fact, our light, the light of the Jewish people, shines brighter than ever.
That's the real miracle of Chanukah. The miracle is all of us, the Jewish people, who endure and glow.
Like so many of my contemporaries, I've attended YLD's Big Event Fundraiser every year for the past decade. Besides being a huge standup fan, and loving the comedy performance, the show off stage is pretty entertaining too. It's sort of like a modern, Jewish version of This is Your Life , a 1950s game show (from before our time) where people from the contestants' past surprise them during the show.
Indeed, my Big Event edition of This is Your Life usually includes running into former Hebrew school classmates, friends from YLD's LEADS program, colleagues from Jewish communal life, and guys I've met back when I was single on awkward JDates--okay I guess no miracle is perfect.
So what's the secret sauce to this annual event that draws one of the largest gatherings of Jewish young adults in the country? Maybe it's less complicated than we think. For it really all goes back to that basic human need for connection. Philosophers and scientists agree that the largest indicator of happiness is building strong relationships of all kinds with other people. And as Jews in America, and particularly in Chicago, one of the strongest Jewish communities in the country, we're blessed with the resources and tools to make forging connections easier.
We're members of a community that connect to each other in so many ways--through Torah, family, love, Shabbat, holidays, food, and through comedy too. A friend, who isn't Jewish, recently remarked to me that he admires the Jewish people because we always have each other's backs, and in this big, tough world of ours, it's comforting to have a built-in community looking out for one another.
So thousands of years after that great miracle happened over there, indeed a great miracle is still happening here.
Hope your Chanukah is full of light and miracles.