December 15, 2015
While Chanukah happens only once a year, the message of the holiday is one that carries month over month and, in many ways, mirrors the themes of recovery - hope, dedication, faith, and persistence.
I reflect back to Chanukah 2012. It was a Friday evening, just before dark. We had 20 Caron patients surrounding the menorah at our home. I was attempting to light one of the candles using the shamash - the candle used to light the other eight candles of a Chanukah menorah - but the candle wouldn't catch fire. I tried again and again. The onlookers began to get impatient, while some even suggested that I skip over that candle and move on to the next. This, of course, was not an option, as the menorah must be kindled in a specific order each night. After several more attempts, the candle finally lit.
That evening, we took this experience as an opportunity to talk about recovery. We spoke about how each soul, like each flame, needs to be reignited. As we saw that night, reigniting the soul can be a difficult process with many obstacles and distractions to overcome, but with patience, dedication, and perseverance you will be led in the right direction. This is the cornerstone of what Chanukah is all about - knowing that if you are dedicated to the process, eventually your light will shine.
A few days ago, an alumnus who was one of the patients at that 2012 Chanukah dinner called me to remind me of that night. He said, "I remember standing there and how impatient and aggravated we were all getting. The story of that night has stayed with me and I think of it often." He told me that when he was a patient in recovery, he didn't have hope in himself but stayed motivated by the hope and trust he felt from all those at Caron involved in his treatment. He treasures that faith, as it has helped him to remain sober to this day.
One could compare the family system to the candles of the menorah. Just like the candles of the menorah need to be rekindled each night, family members intertwined in their loved one's addiction oftentimes need to be rekindled. As for all of us, we need to be a light unto others. The lighting of the candles during Chanukah exemplifies a universal message not just for people of the Jewish faith, but for anyone who lives through the struggle with hope and perseverance.
The miracle of Chanukah may have happened thousands of years ago, but its message is something that can be seen in recovery every day - that there is hope in the struggle, that there is light in the darkness, and that once we ignite our own inner flames we can go on to ignite the flames in others.
Happy Chanukah from Rabbi Yosef & Chana Lipsker and family.