If I was making supper for my family, it would consist of Cheerios every night. The only choice would be: with milk or just plain cereal? My wife, however, aside from deciding what to make for supper, and investing the effort to actually make it – with multiple children, baruch Hashem, invading our home – she also has to contend with ungrateful children who don’t approve of that night’s supper. (You thought this only happened in your house?)
So, it’s rare that she makes a supper that gets approval ratings from every child. (If a mother bases her success as a mother on her children’s approval rating, she can go straight to therapy.) But a few nights ago, she “nailed it” by making chicken poppers. The critics gave rave reviews: “This is better than Dougie’s!” “These are great, and I don’t need to eat them with a fork.” They especially enjoyed the spicy sauce she made that the poppers were doused in.
These days, we take our sauces very seriously. When you order a fleishig sandwich, after finally deciding what kind of meat or chicken to order, which vegetables you want, and if you want to add fried onions, you have to decide what sauces to put on top. You have about 15 seconds to pick two of the 12 different sauces. And whichever ones you pick, the other people with you will tell you that you should have picked the other ones.
What’s with all the sauces, especially hot sauce?
It turns out that there’s a scientific explanation for why people enjoy hot food. Capsaicin is the chemical in spicy foods that makes them feel hot. When it touches your tongue, your body registers that sensation as pain. That, in turn, triggers the release of endorphins, the “happy chemical,” that gives a person an instant feeling of pleasure.
On a simpler level, we like things that give a little kick to the more mundane components of our life. We even talk about “spicing up” our lives.
On a different note, addictions cause a person to chase after an elusive high that ultimately makes the person feel even worse. The worst part of it is that it’s really hard to get out of that destructive pattern.
There are those who suggest that Americans are addicted to outrage. It’s become increasingly more commonplace to hear people arguing heatedly over anything and everything. It’s no longer limited to politics and sports. Now people scream about their food not being prepared how they want it, about traffic, about lines, and every other minor inconvenience. Part of the reason is that people need some excitement and passion in their lives to add some spice to their otherwise dreary day.
My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, would dolefully note that life is like a piece of chewing gum: There’s a little bit of flavor and the rest is chew, chew, chew.
It’s up to us to either add some flavor or find a way to appreciate and enjoy the chewing.
One of the rules of life is that the more one invests in something, the more connected he will feel with that investment and the more excited he will be when engaging in it.
Part of the beauty of holidays is that they add excitement to our lives. Many of our fondest and most nostalgic memories revolve around holidays.
The conscientious Jew does not only observe the holidays as a way to add excitement to his life generally, but also in his avodas Hashem. Each Yom Tov has its own focus that we can grow in.
The message of Chanukah is a message of hope, even in the darkest of times.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l noted: “Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the faith that, together, we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue; hope an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to have hope.” Chanukah isn’t merely about optimism, but about hope. It reminds us that no matter how bleak things are, we can make a difference. Our yearning for greatness and willingness to fight for our faith is the guarantee of our eternity.
In our daily lives, we may sometimes forget the great merit and opportunity we have to be part of such a special people. Some like their latkes with applesauce, others with sour cream. Some like jelly doughnuts, while some like custard or cream. (Personally, I don’t discriminate when it comes to doughnuts.)
But more importantly, Chanukah spices up our Judaism by igniting our souls. The Chanukah candles invigorate our spirit in a way that lingers long after the physical candles have burned out.