With Chanukah starting this Sunday evening I'm sharing a piece from the book fellow NLS member, Emma Parlons and I are working on. An Angel Called Truth and Other Tales from the Torah is a collection of micro-stories; one for each Parasha and Festival, told by 10-13 years who feature, or could feature, in our greatest narratives. We’ve told our Chanukah story from the perspective of a young boy who has been working with father on the Temple clean-up project. For more information go to www.anangelcalledtruth.com
“Silence please! Please do sit down. We’ll begin in a few moments.” Dad’s trying to get the crowd to settle, so we can start the dedication ceremony. But everyone wants to congratulate him, and he can’t help being the chattiest person around. “Oh yes! It does look good doesn’t it? Thank you, thank you. It was a team effort really. My boy, yes that’s him over there, very helpful!” He nods in my direction. I swell with pride. “It was a mess, filthy; pigs roaming around, idols everywhere. I wasn’t sure we’d ever get it back to where it is today. Yes, yes, oh, do please settle down, settle down.”
The past two months have been amazing. My back hurts from hauling away rubble. My arms hurt from scrubbing. My legs hurt from all the ladder-climbing. But it’s been great fun and the temple looks amazing; everything is shining, there’s not an idol to be seen. Today is going to be great.
Dad has been in charge of lighting the Ner Tamid, the everlasting light. He deserves it; he’s worked harder than everyone. He looks so proud as a hush settles over the crowd.
“Bring forth the sacred oil,” Dad calls out. Nobody moves. We all wait. “Who has the oil?” He calls out again, this time starting to sound a little anxious. Still silence.
Then I realise that no one has remembered to get hold of new oil. We are all in big trouble. No oil, no everlasting light, no dedication. And the press was a four-day donkey ride away – four days there, four days back. Then I remember I have seen a tiny flask of oil, with the sacred seal still attached. Everything else has been thrown out. I push through the crowd to get to the store cupboard and scramble through everyone back to the front of the crowd as quickly as I can.
“Dad, we’ve got this,” I say, opening my hand and showing him the tiny vial of oil. Dad looks unimpressed. “It’s not enough son – there’s no point.” I refuse to give up. “Go on Dad,” I say. I’m out of breath and embarrassed, but after everything we’ve been through, I’ve got to believe it’s worth a try. “Let’s burn what we have, don’t quit now.” And, somehow, it was enough.