BY ZOE AMOS
Miami Herald humor columnist, Dave Barry, occasionally reports implausible facts, and to be sure his readership doesn’t think he is trying to be funny, he adds, “I am not making this up.” Gentle readers, what you are about to read is absolutely true. I am not making this up.
This story begins on a bright sunny day a few weeks back. Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, would begin at sunset. Hanukkah is a minor holiday, but it is not without its traditions. People eat potato latkes (fried potato pancakes) served with sour cream and applesauce, play a game with a spinning top called a dreidel, and give little presents to the children including Hanukkah gelt, literally gold or coins, or more likely, chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. Candles placed in the menorah are lit each evening in remembrance of a time when one day’s worth of oil in the temple lasted eight—a small miracle.
On that bright sunny day as I gazed out the sliding glass doors at my home, I heard a clatter on the roof. It sounded as if something had fallen and was bouncing along the shingles as it made its way down. Quickly, I slid open the door and saw a hawk soaring low overhead. The gift it dropped onto my roof rolled over the gutter and fell into the garden before me.
The hawk flew out of sight. I walked a few steps to see the object. It was light brown, a bit mud-caked and looked man-made. I picked it up and knew immediately what it was – a carved wooden dreidel! What an amazing gift!
Was it a coincidence I received a dreidel on the first night of Hanukkah? Did it come from a spirit sending me a message? And if so, from whom?
I cleaned up the dreidel and pondered its meaning. It was very old, and it seemed like it could be from the 1950s or 60s. There was a hint of paint left on it and most of the words were obliterated. Usually a dreidel has a Hebrew letter on each of the four sides telling the player what to do in the game – put in a coin, take out half the pot, do nothing or take all. The letters also translate to mean, “A great miracle happened there,” a reference to the temple. This dreidel had six sides and the writing was in Spanish.
At this point, I should mention my Jewish heritage. Most of my relatives escaped the pogroms in Russia and immigrated to the United States around 1900 or shortly thereafter. As a child, I celebrated holidays, but didn’t attend temple. Slowly, many family members quit observing altogether, including me, although I consider myself to be a spiritual person. This event seemed to combine religion and spirituality.
I posted a picture of the dreidel on Facebook to get feedback and received dozens of comments. Some thought it was a good luck omen and suggested I buy lottery tickets. Others expressed their amazement at this timely gift. My mother thought the gift was a message from my grandfather, who took Judaism seriously.
While the meaning of this unexpected gift is open to interpretation, it reminded me of my heritage. Over the past weeks, I have kept the dreidel on my desk where I see it often. I am grateful for my ancestors who risked their lives to flee oppression. I recalled the stories my great-grandmother told of leaving Lithuania by boat at age sixteen, and how she had to adjust to a new country and learn English. I was reminded that religion and spirituality don’t always make sense. Sometimes things just happen. What I know is, I was given a Hanukkah gift and I will treasure it always. That is a small miracle.
Addendum: On the day after Christmas, I was near my sliding glass doors when I heard a soft thud against the glass. I looked outside and a few feet from where I found the dreidel, I found another light brown item of similar size. Curious, I picked it up. It was a small dinner roll with a beak-shaped triangle missing. Had the same hawk delivered a gift of bread? This is when I decided to share my story. I am not making this up.
Link to how to play dreidel: http://www.wikihow.com/Play-Dreidel
Zoe Amos brings her lesbian point of view to articles and stories on diverse topics. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. “Superior” a novella, is now available on Amazon. Read her short stories on Kindle and Nook. Check out her other life at: www.janetfwilliams.com.