There's always something a little bit melancholy about putting away the menorah at the end of Chanukah. Once upon a time it made me sad because it meant the end to the stream of presents; these days it makes me sad because over the week of the festival I've grown attached to kindling lights every night, and I'm sorry to see the festival go. Often holidays leave me feeling anticlimactic upon their ending -- "you mean that's it?" My challenge is to let that feeling be, instead of immediately papering it over so I don't have to feel it for long.
This year Chanukah was more interesting to me than it's been in a long time. Maybe because two of my classes this fall involve immersion in Hasidic texts, and the worlds of kabbalah and Hasidut are chock-full of light imagery. Torah tells us that the first thing created, at the beginning of spacetime, was light. Light represents wisdom and insight, illumination mental and spiritual as well as practical. Living as I do where night falls early at this season, this festival of en-light-enment resonates more for me every year. Chanukah offers us a chance to bring or ganuz (hidden light) into creation.
And now it's over. I've changed my chat message in gmail chat to "busy as usual," instead of the "Happy Chanukah!" it's read all week. The chanukiyah is back in the sideboard where it resides all the other weeks of the year. The two small silver dreidls I picked up in Jerusalem a decade ago are back on their shelf.
But there's a fire burning merrily in our fireplace, and a leg of lamb roasting in the oven. Home and hearth are warm and inviting, even without the tiny flames of the Chanukah lights. It's time to move on now to the next thing: the waxing moon of Tevet, papers to write and books to read as the secular calendar year begins to wind inexorably down. Chanukah is over. It's time for what comes next.