It’s a truly amazing and mind-boggling fact that every year on and around Chanukah I get more materialistic. I all of a sudden obsess over things that most of the year don’t burden me. For example, why is it that every year around Chanukah, I suddenly hate my makeup regimen and need to change it? Why am I suddenly convinced that my downtime should be spent looking up makeup tutorials on YouTube and ordering new makeup on Amazon? Why do I suddenly feel a strong desire to “amp up” my look, one that had previously not bothered me? I can assure you, as much of a girly-girl as I am, I do not think about this much most of the year. Usually, its just same old, same old, apply makeup, buy more from CVS when I run out and repeat. Same with clothes, hair, weight. However, suddenly Chanukah arrives and I find myself obsessing.
Let me take a step back. Like clockwork, every year, right around Chanukah, I suddenly get this one-track mind about improving my external self. I remember last year when the light bulb about this first went off. I realized that I was suddenly much more interested in beauty tips, makeup etc than I was most of the year. That was when I realized it was Chanukah and that it had been Chanukah the previous year when I was began immersing myself into this stuff too.
Then this year, a few days ago I started thinking about upping my make-up game…and my sheitel…and my nails…and my wardrobe. Slowly this became more and more on my mind – until today. Today I was home with my kids, and I wanted to watch a makeup tutorial (something I probably haven’t done since last year) when I remembered it was Chanukah. “Maybe I should listen to a shiur instead,” I thought and then Aha! The lightbulb, previously lit last year, went on. It’s Chanukah! What hadn’t I thought of this before?? Let me explain…
In the time of the Chanukah miracle, the Jews lived under the rule of the Greeks. The Greeks at this time worshipped one thing – the human body. They had statues displaying naked men, muscular and strong, the epitome of excellence in their culture, and they had battles, between man and man, celebrating the physical strength of the victor. Their whole culture and belief system revolved around the idea that those of greatest physical strength and external beauty were to be glorified, while all else was to be discarded. For the first time in Jewish history, it was not just about killing Jews, but about influencing them to believe as they did- not in a spiritual being, but in a human being. The true battle of Chanukah was one of the physical versus the spiritual.
Jews confronted the problem in their own lives; were they to be drawn in to the culture around them – one glorifying physicality and externality – or were they to stay committed to their previous ideals – one that emphasized a spiritual and internal connection over all else?
This problem is not so different than the one we face today.
For myself, I don’t have an easy answer to this. And I’m not looking for one. Rather I like so see it as an awareness. An awareness that we are constantly living on a battle ground. One where we are pulled both towards physicality and spirituality, almost simultaneously.
On Chanukah, for me at least, Hashem makes my battle super apparent. There is an understanding that during each holiday, the energy that illuminated the world during the time that holiday originated, becomes present again. Apparently for me, the energy of that battle – the inner one that the Jews themselves faced in that time – resides over me.
Perhaps all of us have this “much more obvious inner-dance” around Chanukah. Maybe we all find ourselves being drawn to the YouTube channels on fashion rather than to the TorahAnytime shiur during these 8 holy days. I don’t know.
All I know is:
1. How crazy is it that this happens literally every year?!
2. The greatest way to self-transformation is to struggle. So each year, at least for now, my physical side and my spiritual side will do a dance. Sometimes my physical side will win. Sometimes my spiritual side will win. For now, for me, thats OK. Just so long as I’m aware. (Oh and that I look good while doing it 😉 )