Baby’s First Chanukah
Oil on Canvas 16x20, painted 2019
Original photograph taken – 1999
I remember my oldest child’s first Chanukah like it was yesterday. It had been a very busy day and we forgot to light the candles to mark the holiday. Late that night, when we reminded ourselves to do it, all I wanted was to go to sleep. In my delirium I had an internal debate – does it even matter if we light the Chanukah candles for a baby who doesn’t know the difference? Can’t we just observe these rituals when he’s older and understands what is going on around him? In the end, tradition won out and we dragged ourselves over to the living room window to light the Chanukiah – Henry was so squirmy in my arms. I’ve often wondered: are you born Jewish or do you become Jewish after being exposed to it and having it cultivated in you? On reflection I’ve come to the conclusion that both answers are true. Jewish identity, a feeling of spiritual and emotional connection to Judaism, it’s history, people and culture, however, involves being ‘sparked’ and that can happen at any age.