The Hanukkah Chicken


The Hanukkah Chicken Purple and Hope

The follow-up meeting to the community forum on mental illness-mental health was two weeks later. We meet in smaller group the first Sunday of the month. Susie and I had a plan for the meeting but as with most of our plans, we chucked it.

I was a little late and Susie was already into a piece she had written about the coming of Hanukkah, the entry into the month of Kislev, the promises of the “miracle” of Kislev. It was a poetic piece but I confess I could not get past the concept of miracle even though my favorite poet was speaking.

Susie threw it over to me to read the preamble we kick off every meeting but I couldn’t focus enough on it because the miracle was crashing around my mind.

I can’t get past this notion of miracle. The Hanukkah story when it is given in the language of miracle eludes me. It eluded Rashi too I reminded myself, he wanted to know which miracle?

The miracle of the little cruse of oil burning for eight seems like a kiddie story to me, or the miracle of the few against the many, again a miracle that rubs me wrong these days. I need a miracle every day, per the Grateful Dead, that for sure. But which miracle?

The suspicion of the violation of natural order, the elevation of the way things work (when they work, big gloss) that as miraculous, the miracle of getting up and on with it when what you want to do is draw the covers over your head and stay in bed. Which brought me back to basics, to the language, Hanukkah as dedication. The word means dedication, something corrupted becoming pure, getting on with it in spite of defilement in the Levitical sense.

Today I’m dedicated to the miracle of getting up and on with it as bad as sad as outsider as unfit as unpleasant as out of sorts as I feel I dedicate myself to the deal by getting up and on with it. A day at a time, teach us to count our days so we earn a heart of wisdom this from the psalmist who occasionally speaks to me when I ask.

We go around the table. The table is peopled by individuals living with a variety of challenges, some illnesses, some with diagnoses, some suffering through losses, some with sons and daughters with serious problems, some suffering mightily all showing up. For everyone around this table, showing up is significant. It might be called a miracle.

Today it is by me. Toward the end of our sharing, after everyone has spoken as much truth as I have heard in weeks maybe months, some of us express our gratitude and wonder at having this circle to give over our stories, a few mention the relief they feel, a sense of belonging, leaving the group feeling better than when we arrived.

We talked about the good around what we are doing at that meeting, lifting up a great relief and the folly of knocking on doors that do not open to us. Someone in the room referred to me as Rabbi Goldman.

Yeah, I said, I’m waiting for Rabbi Gold,man too. When Rabbi Gold,man comes, all those doors that have been closed to us will open. Everybody laughed. Until then, we’re doing good right here doing what we know how to do best.

Toward the end, someone wanted to sum up in a way that when asked to sum up several sessions ago she had gone blank. One word, I couldn’t think of it then, she said, at home it came to me so I want to give it over now. Purple. I was thinking how much I love purple and that’s the word I wish I would have said so I’m saying it now. Purple.

We all appreciated that and most of us felt a little purple I think by the end of the meeting. We still hope for Rabbi Gold,man to come and make the systemic changes and someone mentioned they were going to make up some latkes for the Hanukkah kitchen.

I thought they said the Hanukkah chicken, as if we elevated the lowly potato to consequence but ignored the noble chicken. There’s some balance there I thought and a secret dignity to the holiday that we could express in our gastronomy. Yes, I said, the Hanukkah chicken. Let’s not forget the Hanukkah chicken.

Of course I had misheard but where we ended with was hope, whether it comes from a sense of dedication from the past or an expectation of the Hanukkah chicken from the future, Rabbi Goldman arriving with the Great Fix, we were circling our language around the concept hope. A few people mentioned hope, common or uncommon as miraculous, as if a chicken might bring it, as if off in the distance strutting toward us is the chicken, the Hanukkah chicken, loaded up with as much hope as we can give it.



first night