Last year my friend, Rhoda, invited us to her home to celebrate Hanukkah with her family. Rhoda said that she had gone to her friends Christmas parties for years and years and now she wanted her friends to celebrate Hanukkah with her. We were honored to be invited. Rhoda’s husband, Jim Sharp, loved Hanukkah and it was so great to see all the kids making crafts, singing songs and eating all of the wonderful food and we celebrated the miracle of light that Hanukkah represents.
For the quick refresher for those of you who may not know why Hanukkah is celebrated it is to celebrate the time when Judah Maccabee fought the King Antiochus for their right to worship and practice their religion. When they won the battle and rededicated their temple Judah went to light the Menorah. There was only enough oil to last one day, but the miracle that occured was that the oil from one day lasted for 8 instead. It is a miracle of lasting light and also the celebration of being able to freely practice religious beliefs.
Jim Sharp passed away last week and his funeral was on Sunday. We went to his funeral and the message that continued over and over throughout the memorial service was how Jim was a point of light for those around him. The prayers were all so beautiful and I wept through them. And I couldn’t believe that one year ago we celebrated Hanukkah with Jim and Rhoda and now we were at his funeral. Jim planned his entire funeral down the the deviled eggs. And somehow we felt like he was with us and that he was part of the celebration. Even in death he wanted to make all of us happy.
My dear friends husband, Marvin Goodman, also passed away last week. He was another point of light. His funeral was on Thursday. I saved the prayer book from the memorial. I love the beautiful Jewish prayers was so moved from listening to the Rabbi’s voice singing the prayers to honor Marvin. Marvin’s memorial was a true tribute to him. The diversity of the people attending was a testament to who Marvin was and his kindness to all. His memorial book said “To thine own self be true” and Marvin was always true to his beliefs and purpose in life.
I want to share with you this beautiful prayer from the prayer book that will apply to all of you who have endured such great losses this year:
“When cherised tied are broken, and the chain of love is shattered, only trust and strength of faith can lighten the heaviness of the heart. At times, the pain of separation seems more than we can bear: but love and understanding can help us pass through the darkness toward the light.
Out of affliction the Psalmist learned the law of God. And in truth, grief is a great teacher, when it sends us back to serve and bless the living. we learn how to counsel and comfort those who, like ourselves, our bowed with sorrow. We learn when to keep silence in their presence and when a word will assure them of our love and concern.
Thus, even when they are gone, the departed are with us, moving us to live as, in their higher moments, they themselves wished to live. We remember them now; they live in our hearts; they are an abiding blessing.”
The world lost two great men in Marvin and Jim but I also know they are shining down on us and inspiring us with they examples of living such good lives.
Marvin and Jim both had enormous amounts of food at their memorial receptions. So it is actually fitting that I put these recipes here as I pay tribute to them. Even though we are Catholic, tonight on the first night of Hanukkah, I will light a candle to honor Jim and Marvin and I will say some of these beautiful prayers.
And I will make all of this fabulous food that is part of the celebration. I’ve been reading the girls lots of library books on Hanukkah. One of my favorites is The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Pollaco and is a story of Jews and Christian’s honoring each others beautiful religions and I cry every time I read it.
Because part of the miracle of Hanukkah has to do with oil, many of the foods used for the celebration are fried in oil.
Here is the fried jelly doughnut recipe I have made often. They are also called Sufganiyot. I put homemade raspberry jam or cherry jam from my friend Jill in my doughnuts.
Then here is Danielle Gelber’s recipe for Latke’s. The secret is baking soda for lightness and frying them on one side until crisp and then turning them over.
Katy’s Father’s favorite Noodle Kugel recipe
And finally Rhoda Sharp’s Chicken Liver Recipe that I ate last year as we celebrated with Jim.
My heart is heavy with the losses of 2009. There were too many deaths among my dearest friends families. But “We remember them now; they live in our hearts: they are an abiding Blessing” and we think of them during this festival of light.