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Eight Crazy Nights

Posted Dec 10 2009 3:34pm

Celebrating the Jewish holidays in the hospital is a very surreal experience. On the one hand, you lose the chance to really immerse yourself in the holiday because of tests, doctor visits, and how you feel. But, on the other hand, you are undoubtedly more connected to G-d just because of your surroundings. I’ve now spent three major holidays cooped up in the hospital and each time has been a unique experience.

This week begins the holiday of Hanukkah. Last year, I was unfortunately in the hospital for most of the holiday. Only a few weeks earlier I was told my liver was failing and would need to go on the liver transplant list. And so to be in the hospital so soon after that was a painful wake-up call as to where my health was heading. It was not the atmosphere for a holiday, nor was I in the mood for one.

Although Hanukkah takes place during the dark hours of the cold winter, it is one of our brightest holidays. The candles we light each night bring some light into this dark time. We sing, play dreidel, and dance with our families around the warmth of the lights. It has always been one of my favorite holidays. But in the sterile environment of the hospital, the candle lighting ceremony is not the same. For one, you aren’t even allowed to use candles for fear of burning down the hospital. Instead, I used an electrical menorah which serves the purpose but doesn’t feel the same. And dreidel playing is a lot more difficult when you are attached to an IV pole.

Hanukkah celebrates the miraculous military victory during the Diaspora. It is remembered more, though, for the miracle of the Temple candles lighting for eight straight nights. With the holiday revolving around the candle lighting, sometimes the first aspect of the holiday can be lost. But that year, in the hospital, it was specifically the fight that I celebrated: the fight against greater odds, against something stronger than you, a fight not possible without a miracle. And so I fought, with the miracle of Hanukkah as inspiration, to leave the hospital and beat this disease. And miraculously, I went home that winter with a few nights of the holiday left to celebrate.

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