Rekindling Courage

A new Hanukkah Poem, by Jena Schwartz

Rekindling Courage

It’s no wonder my favorite rituals are simple.
Taking out the tiny birch tree with its bright lights
from the pantry, the menorah’s royal bird pair,
the little bowl for chocolates, the dreidel-shaped
holder of smaller dreidels for spinning in the night.


It’s no wonder lining up the candles each morning
in anticipation of even more light come sundown
sends a signal of contentment and peace down
my spine, this counting of days an annual reminder
that while we may fear lack, the dark comes
bearing gifts beyond our imagining.


And what of ourselves will we offer in the fight
against our oppressors? The question comes
in an unmarked bag — who’s this one for?
It’s for me, you say. And you. It’s for all of us.
We may not want to open it amidst the loveliness.


Tempting, isn’t it, to put it aside. Tempting
to say, this must be a mistake, this is not a gift
at all. It doesn’t belong with the blessings we sing,
the baking, the beauty. So I offer you the only thing
I can — a poem, some words that might vanish
soon as they fall, like snow on too-warm ground.


Consider this, fellow seeker of light,
fellow lover of this season of small joys, fellow
maker of nests and creator of coziness: facing
the truth is nothing to fear or avoid. To be alive
is to open the gift of what we don’t want to see


and not only to face what frightens and disgusts us,
rips our cherished stories limb to limb, but to rekindle
our love of justice, to renew our commitment
to each other’s freedom, to carry that flame
beyond its brief moments of burning into our days.

Surrounded by darkness, may we stand amidst
the broken world and and rediscover our courage,
our own reasons for being here today, for coming
in this generation to carry our small torches
out into the night, not despite the battles
but because who else will fight them if not us?


It’s no wonder my favorite rituals are simple.
They return me to remembering that miracles
and more work to do have always coexisted,
that waging peace has never been for the faint
of heart, and that we are backed by the blood
of our ancestors who knew us before we had names.


Photo by Gaelle Marcel

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Rekindling Courage

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