Every Chanukah I am drawn back to the well-known debate between Hillel and Shamai about lighting the candles from 1 to 8 or 8 to 1. We follow the opinion of Hillel who (according to one opinion) believed that adding a candle each night symbolizes how, over time, we should increase and deepen our sense of excitement and appreciation for the gifts in our lives. But it is Shamai who balances the picture by reminding us that the more common human default is to watch our excitement and gratitude wane over time. It is this reality that Chanukah asks us to confront, grapple with, and take one realistic step forward.
This same theme is captured in a passage in Hope Will Find You by Naomi Levy. She writes: Moses tells the people, ‘God sent you manna in order to test you’. I’d never thought about manna as a test. I’d always thought about it as a Divine gift. Immediately I understood what the test was. On Day 1 manna looks like a real miracle. On Day 2 manna still seems quite miraculous. On Day 30 manna is getting seriously boring. By Day 60 manna seems like some sort of punishment. The manna test was the test of normal. Every miracle, if you’re blessed and lucky enough so that it lasts in your life and you get to keep it, becomes normal. And then it doesn’t seem like such a miracle.
In Hope Will Find You, Naomi Levy shares her journey through her daughter’s illness and various diagnoses. She shares her very human struggle of trying to live life fully, while simultaneously feeling as though much of life no longer has meaning considering her daughter’s condition. Here is one quote that captures this beautifully: Life is exhilarating, breathtaking, and beautiful. And life is unfair and cruel. I’d officiated over enough funerals to understand that the most important question we must ask is not what a person did for a living but what he or she did for a life.
The wisdom, realness, and humility with which Naomi Levy tells her story invites the reader to lean into this book with his or her own life.