Searching for the Perfect Donut while Connecting to the Meaning of Hanukkah

November 28, 2021

3 min read


While eating my Oreo-filled donut, I’m going to look at the tiny flickering flames and ponder all of God's kindnesses.

I like donuts (or sufganiyot) as much as the next person, maybe even more! And I'm delighted by the variety of donuts now available at Hanukkah time – the creativity in the colors and the flavors and the presentation. But as I rush from store to store to find the smores donuts, the strawberry shortcake sufganiyot, and the Oreo-filled ones (did they really just run out?) I wonder if perhaps I've lost perspective on the holiday. Are my days so filled with party-planning and brisket baking and latke frying (and searching for the perfect donut) that I am in danger of missing the true meaning of the eight days?

On Hanukkah we mark the Almighty’s kindness. He intervened to lead a ragtag group of yeshiva boys to victory over the mighty Greek-Syrian army. Some may argue that it was military prowess and sophisticated strategy, but we know better. The odds were stacked against us. According to the laws of nature, we didn't stand a chance. With God on our side, we couldn’t help but win.

But it was a long fight; even the miracle of the lights wasn’t instantaneous. We needed to wait and watch – the miracle of the oil unfolding over eight days, the battle over years and years. We don’t always have perspective in the moment. We have to be patient. We know we will see the Almighty’s will unfolding if we just sit quietly and watch.

When we light the candles, we say the traditional blessings and then we recite a paragraph citing the purpose of the Hanukkah lights, the main one being to praise and thank God. I want to make sure that’s what I’m thinking when I light and that the thought and gratitude continue as I sit and watch the flames flicker. I want to take those moments to bask in the candles’ glow and to imagine the Almighty’s embrace.

Too often I jump up during the last chorus of Maoz Tzur. Even if I’m not actually doing anything, all these questions are running through my head. Will the latkes be hot enough? Is the table set? Do I have a good game prepared?

But this year I’m (finally) trying something different. Yes, I made latkes. Yes, we’re having a family party and some games and I bought a bunch of projects for the grandkids to do. Yes, I want it to be fun and the food to be good.

But I also want to really focus on the meaning of the day, not just talk about it, but really focus. So I’m going to sit, on my hands if necessary. I’m not going to move for the requisite half hour that the candles need to burn. I’m going to look at the tiny flickering flames and ponder all of God's kindnesses. I’m going to use the moment to thank and praise the Almighty, just as I’m supposed to. (As long as someone promises to save me one of those Oreo donuts!)

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