Sometime before Chanukah, an acquaintance of mine, who was ten years old at the time, told me that he knew all Jewish holidays and memorable dates.
I asked him to share this knowledge with me, and he explained that Chanukah is holiday when we eat latkes and donuts, Passover we eat Matzah, and on Shavuot we have pancakes with cottage cheese. I asked him what Yom Kippur was, but, alas, he did not know. Perhaps because on this day we do not eat anything: on Yom Kippur, we fast.
But I should note that to my embarrassment, I did not know anything about Chanukah at all at his age. I celebrated my first Chanukah as an adult, and in a very unique way.
The fact is that I managed to celebrate my first Chanukah in June (!), even though Jews usually celebrate Shavuot this month.
In the late 1970s, I periodically traveled to Moscow for work. My business trips included meetings with Moscow organizations and work in scientific libraries. One day, I noticed that for some reason, one issue of the journal “Nature” was missing from the library. Later I found out that it was in the so-called “special storage”, and special documents are needed to work there.
I won’t bore readers with details, but in the end, on my next visit, I got access to this journal, and Iunderstood why it was removed from public access. It turns out that one of the articles talked about a former Soviet biophysicist,who went to the United States on a scientific trip and stayed there. One of the photographs showed how this man came to Jerusalem and celebrated Chanukah there. Nearby was the Wailing Wall and a strange lamp with eight candles was burning.
Naturally, I was interested in all this, and I asked the librarian what Chanukah was. The next day I was informed that it was an anti-Soviet Zionist holiday.
I asked what the eight candles on the lamp meant, and I was told that it was the memory of the eight Arab divisions defeated by the Israeli army in June 1967!
I don’t know if it was by chance or not, but the next day I was visiting a Moscow Jewish family. I saw Chanukiah on the cupboard and started talking about Chanukah. They asked me what I know about this holiday, and I generously shared my “knowledge”. Their response, of course, was laughter.
But when they realized I was not joking, they immediately arranged a Chanukah celebration for me, lit a Chanukiah and made excellent latkes.
This is how I first celebrated Chanukah – in June!
Since then, I have celebrated Chanukah many times – now, during the right time of year, but that first Chanukah will be remembered for the rest of my life!
In conclusion, I would like to share my little poem about Chanukah:
In winter, when there is no warmth and greenery,
The snowflakes on the branches don’t melt
Light appears in Jewish homes –
The lamps are lit there.
That light will remind us everywhere and always
About the glorious struggle of the Maccabees,
The fact that you can never forget
About the fact that Jews were kept from their faith.
How the Temple was cleared of our enemies,
A miracle happened with the oil.
And the memory of this for many centuries
Have survived since then among the people.
And congratulating everyone on the holiday now,
It would be enough to wish
That it is joyful in our hearts,
And the country flourished in the world!