Chanukah is an eight-day festival of light that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality. More than two thousand years ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Syrian-Greeks, who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.
When they sought to light the Temple’s menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity. (Source: Chabad.org)
Chanukah teaches the world so many lessons on how to live life and overcome challenges. Here are Five Lessons Parents of a child with special needs can learn from Chanukah.
1. A little bit of light dispels much darkness
Think about it. Thousands of years ago a little jar of oil brought about a great deal of happiness. Today, we are settling in for a cold long winter, it gets dark early, and then we light the Menorah. These small little lights push away much darkness.
Parents of a child with special needs have many challenges. It is very easy and understandable for a parent to slip into a dark and gloomy mood. The strain of raising a child with special needs can sometimes feel like too much.
Look for the bright spots in your life. Watch your child smile and laugh. Feel your child’s love for you. Look at pictures of happy moments in your family’s life. Find the little flame that will push away the big heavy darkness.
2. Be a light unto others
The Menorah is typically lit in the home with the entire family participating. Traditionally the Menorah is lit by a doorway or window so the light of the candles can be seen from the street. In this manner we can tell the story of the miracles of Chanukah and spread the message of light overcoming darkness.
Take a minute to help another special needs family. Whether they are in need of an advocate, parenting guidance or moral support, find a way to help them out. Your support will provide them with the knowledge that they are not alone and they in turn will provide help and guidance to others in similar situations. Your good deed will help create many more… From a small flame comes a big torch.
3. Dare to be Different
The Greeks were horrified that the Jewish People would not join them in their Hellenist practices. They did everything possible to encourage, cajole and eventually coerce the Jewish People to abandon their Judaism. Instead of capitulating to society the Jewish Nation stood strong and their small militia managed to defeat a much larger and better equipped army.
As a Parent of a child with special needs you should not let anyone tell you how to live and how to parent your special child. Yes, you may do things differently, you may not live the way society expects you to live, but for you it’s the right way. Be proud and be strong!
4. Always go up
On Chanukah we light one candle on the first night, two candles on the second and so on until on the eighth night of Chanukah we light all 8 branches of the Menorah. The basic reason for this is to always go up and never go down. We always increase in light and not the opposite.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the magnitude of all you have to do for your special child. Do one small act, as long as you are moving upward, you are being an excellent parent! Start small, accomplish, and build on your accomplishments.
5. Include your children
Chanukah is not just a holiday for adults. Although the deeper significance of Chanukah (light over dark,freedom over persecution) may be lost on younger children, we make an effort to include them in the festivities. Not only are they included but they are provided with games and customs that help them understand the story and concept of the holiday.
Make sure to include and educate your children as much as possible. Find ways that they can participate in a meaningful way. Whether you are running errands, participating in family events, or doing chores around the house, there is most definitely a way to keep your child with special needs involved.
More Chanukah Resources
- To learn more about Chanukah visit www.chabad.org/chanukah.
- Here are Seven Chanukah Apps for your child with Special Needs.
- Read how to make a sensory friendly Chanukah.
- Find great Chanukah social stories and activities from Gateways