Guest Author - Lisa Pinkus
This is a great book to read at Chanukah with children. There are eight different stories with eight pertinent themes. Read my review and learn how to transform Chanukah into something more than presents.
I love this book. I read it every year and use it to renovate our family’s Chanukah experience. I want my children to grasp a meaning of Chanukah beyond playing dreidel, eating latkes and giving presents. I even want them to experience something beyond lighting candles, celebrating miracles and recalling Jewish history. This book bridges ancient traditions and current customs with new meaning.
Divided into eight chapters, each section highlights another theme of the holiday, according to Barbara Diamond Goldin, the author. The stories she has included illustrate the different meanings of Chanukah. Each year, I try to apply these themes to transform our family’s celebration of Chanukah.
Barbara Diamond Goldin’s first story is a demonstration of faith. It is a story of a man who – no matter what is taken away from him – maintains his faith in G-d. To bring this story into your Chanukah experience, you can go hiking and experience the splendor of G-d’s creations. You can visit a Holocaust survivor or a Holocaust museum. You can talk about G-d and your own personal beliefs with your family.
The second story is a story of miracles. Aside from lighting candles and reading the true story of Chanukah, you can plant seeds and watch them grow to experience the essence of miracles. The Jewish tradition has many stories of miracles that can be told during Chanukah.
Next, is a story on tradition. A family moves away from old traditions only to return to them later on. The simple act of buying a special dreidel for your family speaks to the theme of this story. You can also start a new tradition in your family or buy a piece of Judaica to pass down through generations.
The story on religious commitment can be brought into our Chanukah celebration through family discussion. What goals does your family have for the following year? Chanukah is about rededication, and it is the perfect time to evaluate your religious observance.
Peace is the theme of the next story. It centers around two young boys – one Arab and one Jewish. This is a great night to invite some of your non-Jewish friends over to learn about our celebration of Chanukah. You can participate in a tolerance project occurring in your neighborhood or create one yourself.
Honoring women may seem like a theme out of place during Chanukah, but Rosh Chodesh – the celebration of the new moon – occurs on the 6th night of Chanukah and is a holiday dedicated to women. In our family, we have ‘mommy and me’ time, and the children and I head off for a special project. You can also have girl’s night out – go pottery painting and donate the finished pieces to a senior citizen’s home.
On Chanukah – as on most Jewish holidays – it is customary to give Tzedakah and that is the theme of the next story in Diamond-Goldin’s book. On this night, your family can participate in a community service project together. You can collect the loose coins around your house and decide as a family where to donate them.
Rededication, as mentioned above, is a central theme to the story of Chanukah. This story tells of some young girls efforts to rescue a Torah. To bring rededication into your family celebration, start a family journal to detail your family’s traditions and why you do them. Set some family goals for the upcoming year. Bring back a tradition from your family’s history that has fallen aside.
The book While The Candles Burn: Eight Stories For Chanukah by Barbara Diamond Goldin is a fabulous book filled with eight stories illustrating the many themes and messages of Chanukah. It is an easy read and a simple way to enhance your celebration of Chanukah.
I purchased this book years ago and have been re-reading it every year since.