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miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

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Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

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My Takeaways from Chanukah Music

happy-hanukkah-holiday-text

While lighting the first candle of the Chanukah menorah this evening, my husband sang the traditional hymn “Maoz Tsur” song with my accompaniment on the piano.  After the guys left  to eat the latkes, I continued, playing almost the entire book of Chanukah music.

Chanukah is a holiday that holds a great deal of meaning for me, and so it’s no coincidence that its music puts me into a good mood. Although there aren’t oodles of  songs out there for Chanukah, the Chanukah songs we sing are representative of deep and relevant themes.  Catchy melodies are set in major keys, evoking a peppy, uplifting and happy spirit.

Growing up in NY I heard Christmas Holiday songs while shopping with my mom during the winter holidays season,.  These childhood memories come in handy nowadays as a music therapist, when I sing and play music in nursing homes.  After all, my gentile clients are not so interested in Hava Nagila or Chanukah songs.  Why should they be? So I take out my green and red anthology of Holiday music, and I play for them on my instrument.  Many of the tunes are familiar and I play by ear.  Others are not, so I  sight-read the music and I’m good to go.

But, in  real life I’m a Jewish mom and mother-in-law (and little girl at heart) who loves her Jewish Chanukah songs. The ones that my first piano teacher, Miss Miller taught me when I was in 4th grade to improvise on the piano with cool arrangements.

The songs our family sang every year  and the melodies that my children sang and performed in school plays.

The tunes my husband and sons and I sang at the top of our lungs while any one of our piano lesson-ed sons played the piano.

Each of those compositions has a message. The lyrics resonate with relevant themes today in modern times, although many were  composed decades or centuries ago.

Many Chanukah songs were originally composed for young children – often in pre-school – but the tunes are endearing. so even adults enjoy them. The messages are timeless, ageless, conveying themes that encompass all our lives whatever our age and stage.

Here are a few of my favorite Chanukah Songs.  Click on the links and enjoy the music provided on videos. For more Chanukah songs, see this anthology

Dreidel Song – when I hear or play this song I think of happy children spinning their “tops” (dreidel in Yiddish, sevivon in Hebrew) while the lights of the menorah are burning. I think of the warmth and security of the children and the blessings we have while G-d watches over us in our homes. I think of how the children during the time of the Maccabees had to hide in caves and pretend to play these games while the Romans showed up suddenly. Anything but to study their Torah forbidden by the Romans.

top

English version
I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.
And when it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play.
It has a lovely body, with legs so short and thin.
When it gets all tired, it drops and then I win!
Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, with leg so short and thin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, it drops and then I win!
My dreidel’s always playful. It loves to dance and spin.
A happy game of dreidel, come play now let’s begin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, it loves to dance and spin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel. Come play now let’s begin.
I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.
When it’s dry and ready, dreidel I shall play.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play.

Maoz Tsur – the timeless song of the Maccabees’ fight for freedom. I think of the concept of victory of few against the masses, when it is meant to be and when G-d is on our side. I think of hope, faith and courage in the face of troubles and storms. I think of perseverance and doing what’s right and what’s true to ourselves.

English:
Rock of Ages let our song,
Praise thy saving power;
Thou amidst the raging foes,
Wast our sheltering tower.

Furiously they assailed us,
But Thine arm availed us
And Thy word broke their sword,
When our own strength failed us.
And Thy word broke their sword,
When our own strength failed us.

Oy Chanukah, Oy Chanukah – When I listen to this song (it’s usually sung in Yiddish, so I’m not so good at the words!), and then play it on the piano (too difficult for the harp so far!), I think of the happiness in the air during Chanukah. The festivities. The celebrations. The donuts, the potato pancakes. The celebration of the little tiny oil that lasted for 8 days, the gratitude we have for all that is good, because even though there is darkness in this world (for sure!), there is that little light that illuminates our world, and we can make that happen. That’s what I think of when hearing the words to this song.

Oh), Hanukah, Oh Hanukah
Come light the menorah
Let’s have a party
We’ll all dance the horah
Gather ’round the table, we’ll give you a treat
Dreidels (or Sevivon) to play with, and latkes to eat
. ( (
And while we are playing
The candles are burning bright (or low[2])
One for each night, they shed a sweet light
To remind us of years long ago
One for each night, they shed a sweet light
To remind us of years long ago.

 

Chanukah Blessings – this is the blessing (melody) we sing on the candles, in which we declare our gratitude to G-d for the miracle of Chanukah. There are actually 2 blessings.

menorah-bokeh

 

So, from gratitude to strength to courage to optimism to confidence and to peace….

To any important value out there –music really does it for me, and Chanukah music really gets me going faster than you can say “Happy Chanukah!”

Happy Chanukah to all! Don’t forget to sing! – And OH  – here’s a video of the Maccabeats a cappella group doing their latest (unconventional) version of Chanukah music


Eight Personal Miracles of 2014

I’ve been invited by the very creative writer Renee Schuls-Jacobson to post today, on the 2nd day/3rd candle of Hanukkah. Renee was given my name by Rivki Silver, another amazing blogger.  (Thanks, Rivki!) Anyway, this special activity where a bunch of bloggers (eight to be exact!) are each posting on a different day is called Hanukkah Hooplah!

And…in honor of Hanukkah Hooplah, I have a really important announcement to make:

I, Miriam, mother/grandmother/MIL blogger, am  taking  a BREAK  from blogging about my BREAK.  You know? My ankle break? Yeah. That one.

So? What does non-blogging about something have to do with Chanukah?

Bear with me as I explain:  Chanukah  commemorates miracles that happened to the Jewish people. Right? And  my ankle healing story (which began back in February)  would have been a really cool miracle for me to write about here. Kind of like my own personal miracle, right?

Good things a-coming

A BREAK FROM MY BREAK!

The problem is that I’ve  blogged  enough about the break of my ankle and  its ramifications. I’ve written about my convalescence and recovery here; my seeing the bright side  here and my gratitude for kindness and G-d’s miracles here.

I’ve written stuff here. And here. As they say in Hebrew: Maspik. Enough. Finished.

Not that anyone’s complained about my constant talking and writing and blogging about my ankle. No. People are very nice  and they listen to me. Still, Chanukah is my time to realize  that it’s not all about me about my  foot.  That miracles are really all around us at all times. And we don’t only have to break a leg – and then get better – to see them.

Just because my broken foot, in all its glory of swelling and redness and painfulness led me to see the light in a dark situation,  doesn’t mean I have to blag (that’s blab and blog) about my foot all the time.

Just because   as a result my foot healing,  I am a more grateful woman and just because I’m now  thrilled with little things like for example, uh…walking with two feet, and having almost no pain or stiffness anymore in my ankle, doesn’t mean I have to blag on and on about said foot and its healing.

So just to reiterate:  I’m NOT talking about my foot anymore. Got that? Good.

exclamation-mark-white-13658752462hm1NOT talking about foot!!

Okay! So, today, in this post I’m talking only about 8 other miracles of going from dark times to light times  in my life.

Because Chanukah is celebrating the light in the dark. The one small bit of oil that miraculously lasted for 8 days, and created so much light.

My miracles were the kind  that while they were  going on, I didn’t realize anything significant was happening. But  when I looked back weeks or months later, I thought “hey, I can’t believe the good that came out of that event  – what a miracle.”  I bet some of you can relate.  Over time, things have evolved in your life that represent a  remarkable change from dark to light.

Gradually evolved good stuff that makes us all happy and surprised  at one time.

slide-3Happy and Surprised!

Many of the Eight miracles below have occurred gradually. Knowing they have happened helps me see the light in the darkness with newer challenges that come my way.

Here they are (not in any particular order.)

Good-bye to my annoying mother-in-law behaviors. Some time after I broke my ankle was injured last February, which happened to be around the time that one of our sons got married, someone asked me about my new daughter-in-law. My response was “What? Who?” I seriously forgot that my son had gotten married. I was so absorbed in my pain and frustration of the broken ankle situation, that I forgot to be a mother-in-law! To me, this was a huge miracle that evolved over time. Hello! Who FORGETS to be a nagging mother-in-law? And my darling son and DIL (all three of them) got benefits  from my injury in that I left them alone for all those months. How cool (for those newlyweds)  is that?

milhoodladies2Boy, she looks like a mean mother-in-law, doesn’t she?

I got to keep my job.  When I did not work (because of my injury, I mean situation) at the hospice agency where I’d provided music therapy for clients for the past 7 years,  I worried I would not be able to work anymore. Thankfully, I returned to work, and the position was still available after so many months.

Son cured from  illness.  One of our married sons had headaches (which actually began last Chanukah 2013).  When they  didn’t subside, he went to the doctor for CT scans, which were negative. Then one day, he felt other strange symptoms. He checked into the hospital where they took more tests and after several brain scans and spinal MRI’s, he was diagnosed with an auto-immune illness (the antibodies created to kill the headache virus, attacked his spine), affecting certain functions.  But now after many months he is miraculously out of the woods, and has very slowly swung back to his regular self,  to the joy of his wife and children, and all of us. Thank G-d!

Layoff had happy ending. Early this year,  my husband’s software company laid off all employees. While this was a big shock, it turned out to be for the better, because after almost 2 months of looking for a job, my husband got a better job with better conditions. Looking back, we realize now that  his losing the first job led to a miracle of a much better job. (And…as an added benefit while I was in bed because of The Miracle that Shall Not Be Named, he was around to help me while he was temporarily laid off!)

Attended my father’s funeral (yes, that attendance was a miracle..read on).  My father recently passed away at the age of  88.  Sadly, I was not able to visit him during the final 9 months of his illness because I was not allowed to fly (from California where I live, to New York)- due to my situation. But,  when we got the call after the Shabbos that followed Rosh Hashanah this year that my dear father had passed away , I was already weight-bearing (medicalese for standing and moving on my feet). And so, I was able to attend my father’s funeral the next day in NY. A pure miracle, considering the fact that I had been immobile my situation.

No more sweating the small stuff.   I find that I don’t sweat the small stuff as much as I used to. Unfortunately, it took having several serious hardships  for me to get my priorities straight.

Grandma and kids on wheels

Medical scare with happy ending thank G-d – I found a lump about a year ago and to say I was terrified would be an understatement. It was over a Holiday weekend and I couldn’t reach my gynecologist. By the time I went to his office on the Monday, I was in tears. Hysterical. Thinking the worst. My doctor (who knows me for many years, having delivered almost all of my children), calmed me down, sent me for a biopsy. Diagnosis: Infection. Miracle of miracles. Antibiotics for 5 days and I was good as new.

New baby grandson.  Several weeks ago, our son  and daughter-in-law had a new baby.  Mazel Tov. Thank G-d.

Gentle now...k?

So there you have it: The 8 personal miracles that my family and I have  experienced as gifts from G-d. Sometimes it takes having all kinds of tzoros for us to really appreciate stuff.

And to think that I wrote this entire post without  mentioning my broken ankle even one time! Wow.  What a miracle.

Ummm.  Almost. Sort of…

 My question to you: What ONE miracle of a really dark situation that turned to light has occurred to you this past year?  Write a comment below describing a DARK to LIGHT situation in your life. The winner will receive a GIVEAWAY of my book mailed to them. All residents of the U.S. are eligible.

To win a copy of my book  please leave an AWESOME comment below sharing a  miracle  that you experienced  in the past year.

Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby! The Joys and Oys of Being a Mother, Mother-in-law, and Grandmother   makes a great Hanukkah gift!

HAPPY CHANUKAH  TO ALL and may all your challenges be miraculously overcome! Leave a comment below, telling about one of them!

And oh! Click on this  Hanukkah Hooplah menorah right here– go ahead. Click on it to  get to the other 7 blogger gals’ posts about Chanukah too.

I’m participating in a #HanukkahHoopla with 7 other Jewish bloggers. In the spirit of the season, we’re giving 8 gifts to 8 fabulous commenters. Click on  Hanukkah Hoopla menorah above to be magically transported to the schedule where you’ll find links to visit other fabulous writers and increase your chances of winning holiday cyber-swag!

 Photo Credits: Exclamation point graphic- publicdomainpics.net.  #Hanukkahhoopla Graphic: Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson.  All other photos property of Miriam Hendeles.


Light-filled Days

I love Chanukah for many reasons. None of them have to do with the parties and presents and festivities. Nor do the reasons I enjoy Chanukah have anything to do with vacation from work and/or school. Actually, I enjoy Chanukah because of the contrast between the dark nights in the winter and the light-filled windows. Continue reading


Top Ten Toys for Today

Usually, when Chanukah rolls around, I practically forget about buying gifts. After the Jewish holidays of October, I’m so glad for the plain old month of November, (besides Thanksgiving which is only 1 day for heaven’s sake!), that I barely realize that it is December.

Until this year. Maybe it is because my grandchildren are entering school, but I just am excited to buy them gifts. Notwithstanding my previous post which condemned and criticized all expectations, I still want to buy them gifts. I have that need, okay? So whether or not Chanukah is really a time for giving gifts, (which is a topic of debate for many scholars), I have compiled a list of  ten toys to give one’s grandchildren. I may just give to my grand-children some of them. (not all of course!) Continue reading


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