Monday, December 14, 2009

Hanukkah, Night 4

This afternoon I found a children's book which my grandma sent me, explaining Hanukkah. I gave it to my host mom to read as she has always shown interest in my religious (read cultural) observances and the book did a great job of simply explaining the Hanukkah story.
She read the book and immediately started asking me questions about my family's traditions, as I always described my family as being reform and more lax than conservative Jews.
I decided I would finally bring down the menorah and show her the motions.
Mommy Esper is a very devout Catholic and a pillar of faith in my community. However, she is possibly the most respectful person I have ever met regarding different faiths, with a natural curiosity and reverence for learning others' beliefs ("As long as you believe in God," she always says). She was very excited when I brought down the menorah.
After reviewing the book again before I started lighting the candles, she called the menorah and shamus by name and took a real interest in the Hebrew prayer that I have had memorized since I was a kid. I thought for a minute and said it has something to do with "God bless...Hanukkah." It was good enough for both of us.
After indicating after the prayer that that was about it, we both sat near the menorah and I reminisced about Bubby's latkes in Vegas, dreidel games Colin and I invinted as children and, of course, geld (chocolate coins).
I also explained a Jewish teaching that my good friend Emmy told me when we were in Namibia together (she's the one who donated five boxes of books). I took a match, lit it and said that in the Jewish tradition, fire represents God as it always points to Him. No matter which way you direct the match, the flame will always point up. She said that that is the reason why they light candles during mass for prayer.
We decided that once you whittle away the little differences, Catholicism and Judaism really had a lot in common -- both pointing to God. And there it was. She and I solved the World's pains and agony in our little rural town in the Philippines.


  1. Sean,

    Thank you for sharing that story! It's funny how we all really do believe in the same things. I was raised conservative Christian (Southern Baptist), but lately have been attending Unitarian Universalist services. They really point out all the nuances in each religion, but how they are all connected by one universal God. Pretty powerful stuff. Maybe if we'd realize that we have that connection, we'd respect each other more.

    Thank you for always posting in your blog - it really gives me hope. I can't imagine how eye-opening it must have been to live in the third world, and experience their lifestyle, culture, traditions, and overall decency. People commonly avoid thinking about the impoverished... but we could learn so much from them. The importance of community, love, and family, versus the importance of money (which is the one thing I feel drives our country...).

    I'll be glad to have you back stateside though (for selfish reasons, of course)! Hope you enjoy your time with your dad, and Happy Hanukkah!


  2. you posting any pics of you and aunt erin, haven't seen her in over a decade!

    miss you aunt erin!


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