Aging Jewishly – What Our Traditions Tell Us about Growing Old
Rabbi Barbara Aiello
“So how do you like it?” Cora reached into her shopping bag and retrieved a lovely brass Chanukah menorah. “Beautiful, Sweetie,” said Dan, as he gave his wife of 48 years a peck on the cheek. “But we’ve got a menorah. Why do we need another one?”
Cora explained that she was deep into planning for their family’s annual Chanukah party and although Covid had adversely affected their family traditions, Cora was pushing ahead. Dan, however, was not convinced.
“So Sweetie, how can we do Chanukah this year? Air travel is out of the question so the kids and grandkids won’t be here with us. And getting on the computer to make Chanukah … I don’t know – it seems like it could be boring, especially for our little ones.”
“At first I felt the same way,” Cora explained. “But then I realized that we’ve been talking with everyone on the I Pad. So now, how hard can it be to make a party?
Not hard at all. Chanukah offers families eight nights of brilliant candles, traditional blessings and familiar songs and treats. This year light the first candle on the evening of December 10 and the eighth candle on December 17.
With a bit of creativity and rising to the technical challenge, grandparents can follow several easy steps to make, share and enjoy your very own Virtual Chanukah Party.
Talk with your family to select an evening when everyone can participate. Be aware of work schedules, school schedules and time zones.
Message family members and guests to remind them to find and shine their menorah, purchase a box of Chanukah candles and have these ready to use. Cleaning your menorah: https://www.rabbibarbara.com/cleaning-your-chanukah-menorah/
Select one family member to serve as Chanukah Gabbai (assistant). This person will obtain the Zoom connection, admit guests at the start time and unmute the microphone when you ask individuals to share.
Encourage guests to dress up! For months now we’ve been living in sweatshirts and yoga pants. Wearing a festive outfit will add to the Chanukah feeling.
Prepare for your Chanukah experience. With your Chanukah Gabbai, gather your menorah, candles, matches, blessings, table covering and the computer or device you plan to use and with your Gabbai, position your computer so that you and your menorah can be seen. You may need to place your menorah on a stand or shoebox (with a covering) so that your guests can view it easily. Check your lighting and take time to position lamps so that you and your menorah are not in the dark.
Make an agenda. Use a large font and have the agenda in front of you so that you can transition easily from each activity.
Rehearse. With you Chanukah Gabbai practice your welcome, your directions for lighting candles and the actual lighting itself. To add drama to your ceremony, you can invite family members to light candles individually; “Kara, light your first candle.” “George, light your second candle,” etc. Offer individual family members a reading, song or a blessing and with microphones muted, lead the group in singing Maoz Tzur.
Don’t Rush. In the glow of the Chanukah lights, take several minutes to quietly admire the candle flames. Ask each guest to share one or two words that describes their feeling about Chanukah.
Add to the Chanukah experience. According to Sephardic traditions, there is a Kabbalistic meaning for each candle. https://www.rabbibarbara.com/jewish-holidays-blog/
Assign family members to read each meaning and take time to share your thoughts.
Select an ending blessing and concluding song. Ask the oldest family member to make the Kohanim or Priestly Blessing. Direct everyone to take hands, reminding them that we are linked soul to soul and heart to heart. Conclude with a familiar song like, Oseh Shalom.
See download to recap the items to have on hand and contains blessings in transliteration, Kabbalistic meaning of the candles, and song lyrics. Link for Blessings https://www.rabbibarbara.com/chanukah-candle-lighting-blessings/
Across the miles, “Chag Sameach!”
For ten years Rabbi Barbara Aiello served the Aviva Campus for Senior Life as resident rabbi. Her most popular columns are now published in her new book, “Aging Jewishly,” available on Amazon books. Rabbi Barbara now lives and works in Italy where she is rabbi of Italy’s first Reconstructionist synagogue. Contact her at Rabbi@RabbiBarbara.com.