Today, while sitting in the drive-thru of the Taco Bell on Sandy Blvd, I looked up and saw a giant billboard that read FREEDOM FROM RELIGION, illustrated in stained glass. Something about our right to have a religion-free holiday.
Man, I need more religion, not less. I miss the absence of myth and ritual and God in our secular culture. Tolerance and religious freedom has cost us our shared spiritual identity. I miss sharing a What for.
Tonight was nice. We celebrated Hanukkah at a friend's house. There was a blend of people from different religious backgrounds. The hosting couple are Jews who hang buddhist prayer flags in their bedroom.
I was feeling socially awkward, so while people ate and drank I hung out with my sons and a handful of other boys, all under 10, building legos in the son's bedroom. Sam, our friends' seven-year-old, ran up after a while and shouted "we're lighting the candles!"
We all went downstairs and crowded into the living room and dining room, maybe 50 of us, and listened as Sam told us about the lighting of the menorah. He showed us the menorah his family made from the branch of the 50 year-old cherry tree they had to cut down in their backyard. Each candle holder was bolted through pieces of pottery - from King David's time - that they had excavated on their trip to Israel this summer.
Then Sam's dad told us about Hanukkah's connection with the Maccabees and the battle with the Romans and was corrected by Sam.
Sam's dad explained that Hanukkah is not the most significant Jewish holiday, but given its timing with Christmas, it has taken on increased importance.
"The simplest way to think about Hanukkah is that it is a solstice feast, celebrating more light entering into the darkest time of the year."
Then all the kids crowded around and each lit a candle. The third or so in the room who knew the words sang a song in Hebrew and everyone else swayed along. Celebrating the return of the light. Yes it's dark, but everything's going to be okay.