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My Chanukah Wish List

          Yitti Berkovic

When I was a kid, the most exciting day of the pre-Chanukah season was when the Toys R Us magazine showed up in the mail. By the time it got to me, it was usually in tatters because my brothers had gotten to it first. They’d clipped the pages they’d wanted to show my parents – the basketball hoops, the handheld arcade games, the boy stuff – so I had to piece it back together to find the Easy-Bake Oven or the Spirograph set high on my list. 

My parents smiled at our requests, but I never did get that Easy-Bake Oven or that Spirograph. Much to my disgruntlement, my parents believed in “practical gifts” for the whole family – like new Jewish music cassettes or some board games we could all enjoy, and no amount of kvetching could get them to change their minds.

I vowed I would never deprive my own children of their Chanukah wish list, but with apologies to my younger self, I’ve pretty much become my own mother. Like her, I’m uncomfortable with the commercialization of Chanukah’s essence (and, like her, I really don’t want more clutter!) but that doesn’t stop my kids from dreaming big.

These days, the Toys R Us catalogue has been replaced by the Amazon catalogue, but it has the same effect on my kids when it shows up in the mailbox. 

It’s all but ripped to shreds by the time my kids are done with it and eagerly hand it over, with their wish list of items circled in black Sharpie: Playmobil! Lego! And look at that – they still sell the Easy-Bake Oven!

In theory, I’d try to let my kids down lightly and explain to them that material things will never make them truly happy, but why waste my breath? I may have become me my mother, but my mother? Well, she’s become a woman I don’t recognize. 

The very same mother who insisted I give up my Easy-Bake oven for the new Miami Boys tape is more than happy to get that Easy-Bake oven for my gleeful little daughter.

Somehow, grandmotherhood caused her to throw her principles out the window.

So, as my kids giddily check off the items on their wish list, I can’t help but get swept up in their giddiness.

What if, I wonder, someone asked ME to create a Chanukah wish list?

What if I could circle some things in black Sharpie and then – POOF! – they would show up at my doorstep?

I’ve got a real oven these days (and I’m no fan of baking), so my daughter can have that Easy-Bake Oven. Here’s what I’d ask for instead:

  1. An on-staff referee.  

Think about it. 90% of my mothering energy is spent on trying to keep the peace around here. Sadly, 99% of the time I end up making matters worse.

When that chorus begins – “She started it!” “No – he hit me first,” I want to be Switzerland.  I don’t want to take sides. I don’t want to pick culprits. I just want the fight to be over.

But you know how it is. Either I take the wrong side, or, if I try to remain neutral, I get that dreaded accusation, “You don’t care about me – you love him more!!” 

I really can’t win.

So, imagine if there were a referee who lived in my house. Imagine if I could blow a whistle – like they do at a sports event – and a man clad in a black-and-white uniform could zip in and handle the situation without my input.

As my kids whine and moan, the referee will offer his non-arbitrary ruling: 

Game delayed on account of fighting.

Five minutes in the penalty box. 

Shake on it or face ejection from the game.

When my kids respond with their usual, “It’s sooo not fair!” I could shrug and say, “So sorry, kids. I’m not the one in charge around here. Take it up with the ref.”

Now that would be a gift!


  1. A reset button.


 When I’m not breaking up my kids’ fights, I’m kicking myself for all my parenting mistakes.

Those words should never have come out of my mouth.

I came down too hard on her – in that moment, she really needed my love and not my frustration.

Why didn’t I just look the other way?

Imagine if I could simply hit my shiny red reset button – and beep – I could just do it all over again?

My daughter’s crestfallen face would be replaced with a smile, and I wouldn’t have to eat myself up with the guilt for the whole day.

I could learn from my mistakes in the moment I make them instead of working my whole life to improve my character.  

Now that would be a gift!

Though my kids are much more likely than I am to get their wish list granted, I think long and hard before making my final pick.

A personal chef?

An on-call masseuse?

No-calorie Danishes (that taste just like the real thing)?

These things sound fantastic (and I won’t turn them down if anyone offers them to me), but I realize there’s only one more thing left on my Chanukah wish list. 

It’s the one thing that every mother wants.

It’s the one thing that seizes our hearts every Friday night when we stand in front of our Shabbos candles, when we squeeze our eyes shut and are too afraid to even whisper the worries heavy on our minds.

  1. The safety of our children

No – correct that.

  1. The safety of our nation.

As we celebrate this Shabbos Chanukah, standing with our families as our nights are lit by the flames of our mesorah, we know it’s really the only thing that matters.

In our current climate, so many people wring their hands and wonder, what can we do?

On so many days, the world seems to be growing darker. On so many days, our children come home from school with wide-eyed questions we don’t have answers for, sharing stories young children should never hear.

The fear can be all-consuming.

But the Yom Tov of Chanukah reminds us that we will do what our people have always done.

We will cling to the ways of our Creator and do the best we can – without an on-staff referee, without a reset button, but with a Guidebook that directs us how to live our lives and with a Father Who assures us that even though we are the small against the mighty, no miracle is too big to daven for. 

Now that’s a gift!

May all our Chanukah wishes be answered l’tovah, and may all of Klal Yisrael enjoy a truly freilichen Chanukah!


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