Dec 8, 2012
Happy Chanukka Everyone!!
I have had the most marvellous week, despite catching a cold and having to have a day off school where I ended up sleeping like thirty hours and waking up really confused about what country I was in.
Sweden has transformed itself into a veritable winter wonderland, and not like the shit one in central London where you have to pay a tenner to wander around in your own park.
On Sunday and Monday we had very heavy snowfall, heavy even by Swedish standards!
Monday on my way home from school the metro just stopped working, we all got kicked off the train into this awful little village with only one shop. It was terrifying, there were no lights in the station and everyone was swarming and pushing. Due to the fact that I am partially sighted and cannot see anything in the dark I had to go down the stairs really slowly and everyone was pushing and shoving and shouting in Swedish. When I finally made it outside there was several hundred angry commuters all screaming their heads off and four or five Metro cops with batons and those massive heavy torches screaming at us and herding us onto the tiny pavement that was already a foot deep in snow and ice with more storming around us all the while. I could barely see anything and as I am so short even if I wasn't blind I wouldn't have been able to see past all the giant Swedes pressing me in on all sides. Eventually one bus turned up and by sheer luck stopped right infront of me and I jumped straight on it while the Metro cops were pushing the crowds back who were trying to swarm the bus- it was like a zombie movie.
It took me three buses to get home, driving along jammed streets with no street lights or traffic lights, all the houses were in complete darkness too. Finally I got to the Metro station nearest my house and started the 20 minute walk home in pitch darkness with only my lighter. All the shops were closed too, it was quite eery.
Arriving back at my flat which is in the lower level of an tower block I had to use my lighter to find my way down the stairs to my door, I was quite surprised that we didn't have any emergency lighting at all. My flat was freezing, also no electricity and the thermometer outside read -15, I filled my room with candles (obviously the only candles I had were Shabbat Candles, a multi-wick Havdalah candle and my chanukka candles!!), put on all my clothes and turned my mind to the very important question; dinner! In the end I settled for a glass of cold water, a cigarette and some chewing gum. I only got my scholarship that morning and was planning on buying my groceries on the way home but no such luck.
Is there anything worse than being hungry and cold?
But I survived and the electricity came back on just as I was going to bed so I slept toast warm.
Unfortunately I think the cold from my brief encounter with the dark ages triggered the cold that is still plaguing me today.
Tuesday I went to a Christian Queer Bible study group with my adoptive Swedish parent Rikkert, it was kinda fun although I found it very problematic to read a passage from Isaiah that is clearly about Babylonian exile and a longing for the reconstruction of the temple as a prophecy of Christ. I found myself feeling quite sad, hearing the people talk about 'desperately wanting to be saved' or 'being denied a place in the kingdom of God' etc... I feel kinda glad that my experience of Judaism has been one where there is no one but myself to mediate my relationship with 'God', and I know there are some very serious social and religious barriers within Judaism but all in all I think we have more room to move, I mean a fundamental part of Judaism is to struggle and question. I dont know any Jews that are sitting around worrying 'am I really a Jew?' "Does God hate me?' 'am I saved?'.
Still it was quite interesting to see a different perspective.
Wednesday my lovely friends Elliot and karin invited me over for Glogg and a Downton Abbey marathon, which is quite possibly the best way to spend an evening.
Thursday I lay in bed without moving, I remember almost nothing from Thursday except having a lengthy discussion with my friend Raphael via Skype about gender binary and how I am collaborating with the Israeli Occupation which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Friday I got my tickets to Israel, yay! yay! yay! I will be leaving on the 16th for three glorious weeks in the sunshine!
After school on friday i went to lovely synagogue and had a very relaxing time. I had to make an uncomfortable social adjustment last week with someone who had been behaving a little too over familiar when I was at shul, and I'm afraid I had to ask them to back off a bit. Its never nice to have to hurt someones feelings but I love going to the Great Synagogue so much that I don't want to be in a position where I avoid going because of someone else. I was especially glad for the Kabbalat Shabbat service this week because afterwards I was meeting one of my new Swedish friends for a coffee and was feeling incredibly nervous! I don't usually go out on friday nights unless it is for some kind of shabbat dinner or something but this was one of those occasions when you just can't bring yourself to say no. Thankfully it was definitely worth giving up my usual friday night routine.
We went to Cafe Baresso below my school actually. Not many people know it has a sumptuous basement decorated like some kind of... I want to say Turkish Harem but that may be a slight over exaggeration... well maybe not! Anyway we sat down there and it was totally deserted and there were gazillions of candles everywhere and it was quite a romantic backdrop for such charming company. I had such a nice time that when on the metro I realised I wouldn't get the chance to repeat it until I come back from Israel I *almost* felt disappointed I was going away.
Today I went to meet two of my lovely Swedish friends for a coffee and had some nice chats, I feel very lucky to have so many good people around me at the moment!
Then this afternoon I came home to my flat and lit my chanukka candles and was just sitting here thinking about chanukka and the theme of miracles and what to write on my blog about it as I seem to do every year!
Its very hard to believe in miracles in this day and age, I mean you hear stories all the time where you think 'if that's not a miracle then I don't know what is' but you don't really think a miracle will ever happen to you. With this in mind I was going over the story in my mind of the oil lamp with only enough oil for one day that ended up burning for eight days (this is the chanukka 'miracle') and feeling it out for the opening in the text that will let me in.
In the end it wasn't the fact that one days worth of oil burned for eight days that I found strange or unusual but the fact that the Maccabees (the Jews) bothered to light The Temple Menorah anyway. The Menorah is supposed to be kept alight all the time, obviously when the temple was desecrated the lights were allowed to go out. If it was me standing there, having just recaptured my beloved temple and with only enough oil for one day, and after that it would take eight days to make some more, what would I do? Would I settle for having it alight for one day, or would I simply wait until we had enough to keep it going indefinitely?
I guess this seems like a pretty obscure part of the story to focus on but I feel that is has a great deal of resonance for me at the moment. I am struggling a bit (well a lot), I don't have any money, and after my scholarship runs out in March I don't have anywhere to go, I don't even have the airfare to get back to London (but since I don't want to go there anyway who cares) and I don't have anywhere to live. I am very worried about how I am going to keep the lights burning when the oil runs out!!
The Maccabees were a pretty plucky bunch, if I am to take anyone as an example I couldn't chose better then those guys who just kept on bouncing back. It takes a special kind of person to worry about simply doing the right thing right now and having faith that tomorrow will bring good fortune. It takes a lot of strength to be able to keep walking forward even when you don't know where the path is going and admit you don't have all the answers. As my best friend Hayley always tells me "let future Max worry about that!!" and I have to say it is very good advice!
So this Chanukka I am not marvelling in the wonder of miracles. The fact that the oil kept burning long after it should have for me is besides the point. This Chanukka I am celebrating the pure faith and determination that it takes to make your own destiny, to light the Menorah even though you're not sure how to keep it alight because it is the right thing to do.
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