“Hadara,” whimpered my 4 year old sister, Tzofiya, as she squeezed my hand tighter. “Hadara– the city’s scary when it’s dark!”
I was my younger sibling’s ‘street-crossing buddy’, as my family navigated the twisting streets, on our way to the city’s square for a public Menorah lighting. I looked at her tenderly, and squeezed her hand back.
“Don’t worry Tzofiya,” I soothed. “We’re all together, and safe– and remember, we’re going to a big, beautiful menorah lighting!” trying to inject her with enthusiasm. We arrived at the square, and my sister wasn’t any less anxious. I noticed the numerous stone benches standing staunchly all over. “Ima,” I called ahead. “Is it okay if Tzofiya and I hang back here for a minute?” Ima turned to me and raised her eyebrows, but when she took one look at Tzofiya, she silently understood what was going on.
“Are you sure you want me to go ahead?” she called back.
“Yes Ima, thank you,” I confirmed with a small smile. Tzofiya stared at me with puppy-dog eyes, as I led her by the hand over to a bench. I sat down, and drew her onto my lap. “Tzofiya, I know you don’t like the dark,” I said gently. “But do you know how we can fix that?”. She shook her head slowly, not saying anything. “All by ourselves, we can change the dark into something nice. We can find something, like ‘light’ in the dark,” I continued.
“How?” came her muffled question, as she cuddled closer to me.
“We can find something beautiful about the dark Here, think about this: If it wasn’t dark we wouldn’t be able to see the menorah’s flames! Or, if it wasn’t nighttime, not as many people could come to the party, and do the mitzvah of lighting the menorah! We have to be brave though, to look for the special things in what we might be afraid of. Chanukah teaches us all about this! And I’ll stay with you the whole time tonight, so we can look for the special reasons for the dark, together!”
She looked at me in pure innocence, and stated with maturity beyond her 4 years: “I never thought of it that way, Hadara. I’m going to look extra hard,” she promised.
A big smile spread over my face. “Wonderful!” I exclaimed. I slid her off me, as I heard the beginning of song coming from the area of the lighting. “Want to race to the menorah, and see if we can point out a few of our special lights on the way?” Her eyes lit up with sparks as bright and holy as the Menorah’s flames, filled with understanding of the secret I just shared with her.
So, hand-in-hand, we took off across the cobblestoned square, into the magical evening, singing maoz tzur, and finding new sparks, both around and within us.