How To Make The Best Of Hanukkah While In Mourning

How To Make The Best Of Hanukkah While In Mourning

December has only just started and already I’ve got Hanukkah FOMO. FOMO, fear of missing out.  Because it falls so close to Xmas, Hanukkah has become party time. Surf the web and go on social media and you’ll get the feeling that everyone is busy planning an elaborate bash… I’m talking parties with menorah centerpieces constructed from wine bottles or vases, dreidel balloons, menorah cupcake toppers, holiday T-shirts (even for babies and dogs), Spotify playlists of Hanukkah songs, and food that could make you gain weight just by looking at it.  I’m not just talking about old fashioned fruit-filled donuts and potato pancakes, but Haute gourmet farejicama latkes with avocado sauce and deep-fried beignets and sufganiyot with crème Brulee filling.

What a blast it must be to plan one of these galas, or better yet, to be a guest at one. Sadly, this year, the FOMO isn’t just in my head. It’s real. Call it MO. Missing out. No party, No socializing. That’s because my husband is in his year of mourning for his mother.

According to Jewish law, when one mourns a parent, one’s life must reflect that loss.  That means no parties. And yet… Hanukkah comes only once a year. Even with the loss, I’d like to make the best of this time… but how? Here are some ideas to help beat Hanukkah FOMO.

  1. Do service. Seek out others whose FOMO might be worse than yours. Reach out to a sick friend or a lonely neighbor. Bring along some latkes or sufganiyot… or just yourself.
  2. Find other kinds of fun. Attend a holiday concert or show or go ice skating or swimming or skiing. Go alone, or, better yet, with a friend.
  3. Go outside and gaze at the menorahs glistening in the dark. In Jerusalem, this is particularly beautiful, but Chabad organizes public menorah lightings almost everywhere. Go to one and connect with other Jews and contemplate the miracles of the holiday and the miracle of being Jewish.
  4. Meditate and pray in front of the candles. The Cabalists say that the 36 lights of the holiday contain the supernal light left over from the 36 hour period when Adam and Eve dwelled in the Garden of Eden.

In case you can’t come up with your own ideas of what to pray for, Rabbi Levi Yitchak of Berdichev provides a very inclusive list of things:

First night: not to be lonely and depressed. (Good strategy because that’s the night that FOMO hits the hardest)

Night two: to find your life’s partner or, if you have one, that you two should live in peace and harmony.

Night three: happy and healthy children

Night four: that you can tap into the strength of the four matriarchs: Sara, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah.

Night five: that your life should be filled with the light of Torah and Jewish wisdom. In Aramaic, the Torah is called Oraitah, which means light.

Night six: to live in joy. You can have everything and still be sad.

Night seven: to enjoy the Sabbath

Night eight: miracles. The eighth day is called Zot Hanukah and it’s a powerful time to pray for a miracle, any miracle you need.

Happy Hanukah!


Carol Ungar

Carol Ungar is the author of Jewish Soul Food: "Traditional Fare and What it Means" (Brandeis 2015) and the forthcoming kids' picture book "The Surprise in the Desk" (Hachai Publishing)

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