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“And as you search for meaning with fancy metaphors, think upon others”
—Mahmoud Darwish



What do you call 18 menorahs

that won’t stay lit? A metaphor.

Or a punchline. Or maybe both.

Like any Clevelanders in December

we talk about the weather: windy

enough to make outdoor Chanukah

a tall order. Not as tall as fighting

off Antiochus, but still. It doesn’t

take long for the jokes to start.

Huddled over cupped hands, we

say the real miracle is Jewish persistence.

The wind has nothing on the Greeks.

Eventually they all light and the rain stops

for a minute or two. Our faces glow.

The rabbi, she keeps getting interrupted

by the kids losing their damn minds

over the candles lined up flickering

down the silver T-Rex’s tail.




So this rabbi, he says what’s the best way

to drive out the darkness? Keep in mind

he says this from the top of a ferkakta

ladder, six feet up there, beard waving

in the December Ohio wind. He’s clutching

a Tiki torch in his gloved hand, ready to light

the Big Menorah, 9 kerosene cans lined up

on a rickety plywood frame. Everybody shivers

and wants to go back inside the rented banquet hall

in the mixed-use economic development district,

to the lukewarm latkes, to the bounce house. So this

rabbi, he says, the best way to drive out the darkness is an F-16!.

The punchline is I don’t know if he was kidding.

The mayor lights one. The rabbi lights the rest, then says,

he says, now who wants some GELT! Before he can tiptoe

his tuches down the ladder, the kids scream

their way inside, where a flurry of coins will be

dropped from a drone unto their little flailing bodies.





What’s made of metal, has nine holes drilled

down its length, is about the size of a slender

siddur’s spine, and confounds the authorities

(especially at border crossings)? I call it

my Diaspora Menorah. Portable. Indestructible.

Aglow tonight in a place called Public Square,

along with some other folks and a few banners

in solidarity with refugees fighting to survive

a right-wing government’s relentless assault.

Somehow there are those who call this action

antisemitic. Who call me self-hating. Who think

Jewish safety means danger for others, not safety

for everyone. I remember Sunday school, both

the VHS Israeli infomercials and the blue boxes,

but also Debbie Friedman’s melody ringing through

so many little mouths: “not by might and not by power,

but by spirit alone shall we all live in peace.” It’ a simple

punchline: the best way to drive out the darkness is light.