[image: My wonderful son "D",bareheaded, lighting the Hanukah menorah]
Very few of us get through life without some big challenge- and often more than one. A few days ago I turned 59 (I can’t believe that I am almost 60!), and as I look back on my life, I feel that I am working towards my PhD. Looking for a spouse was course 101 in emuna and bitachon (belief and faith). Having a child drop out of high school and almost “go off the derech” ( choose a different way of life style than us) was another level- class 201. Ricki’s birth was 301, and the fight for her inclusion, which was a bitter and long battle, was 401. Having several children truly become irreligious was already a masters. And a certain ongoing trial which I deal with , I feel, is my coursework towards my PhD in life. And I have learned a lot. In fact, as I told one of my older children recently, I am absolutely astounded at some of the choices I made 15 years ago, and I pray that if I were to be faced with similar problems today, my reactions would be much more empathetic, assertive, and sensible.
Simply said, life is never perfect, and we have the chance and ability to grow and improve our midos (character) as we travel along.
[image: The lights, the last evening of Hanukah.]
Last night as I gazed at the Chanukah lights, I thought that this is one of the real messages that the holiday has to bequeath to us. There are often battles… and there is no Pollyanna promise from G-d that if we do His will, our lives will be easy. But those brightly burning lights can remind us of the flame of our soul, the strength that G-d implanted within us to persevere, and to hope, to struggle, and to grow, as (quoting Rav Salanter, who quoted the shoemaker working by oil-lamp light), “As long as the light burns, it is possible to fix.”