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November 29, 2015 / 17 Kislev, 5776
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Glittering Displays

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It’s that time of year again. You’re sure to be visually bombarded at every turn of your shopping experience. Malls and department stores are inundated with glittery holiday displays and decorations.

With the objective of buying my six-year-old son, Yisroel, an essential pair of snow boots, we headed out to the stores one Sunday afternoon. His eyes opened wide as he caught sight of an intricately-designed, antique-looking display. Animatedly, he pointed to it while announcing loudly, “Look, Ma!”

“Yes, honey,” I half-heartedly acknowledged, lugging him in the opposite direction, while realizing how incongruous his large yarmulke and flaying tzitzit appeared to the backdrop of his surroundings. “Let’s go and see if we can find a warm pair of boots for you.”

“But look, Ma,” he repeated, this time even louder. A few passersby were beginning to stare at us, as he obstinately tugged me until we were nearly flanking the display.

Pointing at the red-suited, grey bearded figurine, surrounded by several elves riding on reindeers, my young son excitedly announced, “See it, Mommy? It’s Yehudah Hamaccabi! He’s leading the Jewish warriors on their horses in their victory against the Greeks.”

Just that past week in his school, my son had learned in detail about the victory of the small army of Jews, the Hasmoneans, against their Greek captors who had defiled the Temple and attempted to force all Jews to assimilate. Yisroel naturally assumed that the exhibit before him was a visual representation of Chanukah, and, as such, was captivated by it.

We paused in front of the display for a moment longer before Yisroel asked in wonderment, “But Mommy, how did this store owner know about the Maccabi’im?!”

My son’s innocent statement had me reflecting about how we view our circumstances. His cute but naïve

comment awakened within me a new perception of our world.

A child personifies the attitude of “it is for me that our world was created.”

Our sages admire this outlook. They see it not as one of arrogance, but rather for its advocating a sense of responsibility. By seeing our world as created specifically for me, I am inculcating a positive and empowering attitude into how much every one of my actions and attitudes affects my surroundings and my world.

On that Sunday afternoon shopping experience, Yisroel was reminding me of the chassidic idiom that everything we see – indeed, everything we come into contact with – is placed there just for us. In some way, every encounter has within it a means for our personal growth. Even those things in seeming opposition to our values,are placed before us to help us pierce through the coarseness of outer reality and discover some inner worth.

While I’m not suggesting that we look outside of our religion to find any deeper meaning, and while Torah specifically delineates which things are forbidden and must be avoided, this episode reminded me that every encounter – even challenges or obstacles – can bring us to higher levels of devotion.

It may just take the innocent perspective of a child, or our own inner child, that envisions our world as being there for me, allowing us to penetrate through the rough external layers and enabling us to find a message or meaning relevant to our personal growth.

Because it is the pure, unblemished vision of a child that reminds us to look into the coarseness of our world and uncover, a morsel of meaning, we’re able to see beyond the artificialness of our surroundings, discover a point of sincerity and gaze deeper than the falsehood encircling us and find a vision of truth.

Perhaps if each of us would foster this inner child’s positive vision, our world would be transformed into that reality.

And isn’t that the message of Chanukah – to stand strong against the pervasive assimilation surrounding us and remain true and strong to the message of our heritage and our faith?

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