“And as you search for meaning with fancy metaphors, think upon others”
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.