It’s Wednesday – December 17, 2014

Boker Tov and Chag Urim Sameach (Happy Festival of Lights.)

It’s Chanukah. A few thoughts relevant to the occasion now follow.

Yesterday I was a presenter on a webinar about the December holidays. It was aimed at state mental health program directors. Many acronyms were co-sponsors. What should mental health workers be anticipating in this holiday season? While there are no statistics that support a spike in mental illness or suicide, everyone thinks it’s a difficult time for a lot of people. And when I heard why, I was happy to be a Chanukah person. You see, Christmas involves many potential stressors:  increased contact with family, travel at very congested times with lots of packages, lots of expenses and money issues, big crowds, expectations fed by the media about how great the holiday is going to be, alcohol, missing those not present, overwhelming to-do lists, and more. And to top it off, most mental health facilities close down on the most crucial days. So, in comparison, just having a little candle lighting, singing some blessings and Maoz Tzur, giving out a gift or two (there are after all many nights) – it is much less stressful.   On the other hand, we do feel more outside the mainstream than any other time of the year, which can be stressful unless we have the Chanukah bush. Only kidding.

Clal sent out a nice little Chanukah piece, from which I will now quote.  “In a world that often confuses celebrity with achievement and big numbers with big value, Hanukkah celebrates our unique value and capacity for greatness.”  How so?  “An unknown family, the Maccabees, led a small army of non-professional soldiers to a victory culminating [I don’t like that word but it doesn’t spoil this] in a little container of oil lasting longer than any reasonable estimate predicts. The un-famous, the in-expert and the small, are all capable of true greatness. And if that was true for them, imagine the greatness in you.”  I like the message.  Chanukah teaches us that when we go beyond who we typically think we are, and beyond what we think we can do, we discover a lot of great things about ourselves. Chanukah encourages us to see the sense of possibility and to give our dreams a tryout.

I was taught that all rabbinic wisdom comes in three’s.   So I conclude with a shameless plug for one of my favorite events, our latke-hamantasch debate. It is still true that we are located in the city (Bethesda) with the highest percentage of people with graduate degrees of any city over 50,000 in the entire country (and probably the universe).  So, debating on the very highest intellectual level comes naturally. While we didn’t invent this particular debate, we have applied all our learning and cleverness to bring it to new levels of ridiculous meaninglessness. Come this year and you will hear a public health consultant, an intellectual property lawyer, a school psychologist and a scientist debate the relative merits of these delicacies. We don’t know whose presentation will carry the day. My personal preference is never revealed nor heaven forbid does it impact the final vote. All we know for sure is that we tear up at the stately processional, we listen, we laugh, we vote, and we eat. 10AM – 11AM this Sunday.

Have a good Wednesday and a fun stress-free Chanukah.  Bill Rudolph

P.S.  For a handy kit for home Chanukah celebration, look on our website ( under Lifelong Learning/ click Family Life Education and then Holiday at Home Guides. We are entering a challenging minyan period through to January – not many meetings, many on travel.  Your help will be most appreciated, morning or evening.