A Hanukkah Miracle

Nes Katan Hayah Po. A small miracle happened here. Here, of all places, on the Metro Transit Authority’s turf. That’s what I thought, at least, when I stepped off the Q train and onto the platform of the 30th Avenue stop.

I had to laugh. I should explain why.

The ancient history:

The Judeans found themselves under rule of the Syrian King Antiochus. Antiochus worshipped Greek gods. He decided it would be a good idea to force the Jews into conforming to his religion. He took the Jewish temple and he desecrated it, turning it into a shrine for Zeus. Eventually there was an uprising, good triumphed over evil, and the Jewish people got their temple back.

Then, the good part.

The Jews went back to their temple to find it a full on mess. They needed to make it holy again. First step: get the menorah lit up. They scrounged for oil and found only a measly amount good enough to last one day. But, by some miracle, the oil lasted for eight full days and nights of burning light. “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham,” they say. “A great miracle happened there.” And now we celebrate Hanukkah.

The recent history:

A few months ago, on a train home from the city, I found myself the seat companion of a perverted stranger. He decided it would be a good idea to make me a sexual harassment victim. He took my sense of security by turning my primary means of transport into a crime scene. I was extremely lucky in that I was able to get out of the situation without physical harm, but the psychological damage had clearly been done.

It took me a while to return to the scene of the crime, as it were. But then it got easier.

While I have definitely made strides in coping with what happened, some days are still better than others. On the worst days, the slightest sound or movement has the ability to set off a panic. I’ve learned to take to distractions—like my iPod—as a survival tactic. It helps me calm my nerves, drown out unpleasant noises, and create a setting of familiarity that I can control.

And now, a small miracle:

This past weekend I didn’t have time to charge my iPod before I set off for the city. Once I found my seat on the train, I began to feel that well-known anxiety creeping in the pit of my stomach. I reached for my headphones, eager to settle in to the calming sounds of the new Sufjan album I’ve been obsessing over. But when I turned my iPod on, I was panicked to see that the battery icon was highlighted only with a thin sliver of a red line. Low battery. Crap. I pushed play and prayed to the god of musical devices for iPod not to run out of juice, and the ability to stay calm.

I probably had enough battery power to last one song. But let me tell you my friends, my little iPod lasted through all of southern Westchester.  Then it lasted through the Bronx into Harlem.  And then it lasted into Grand Central Station and onto Astoria. It was sort of amazing.

It probably sounds silly in comparison to the history and importance of this holiday, but I swear, as I arrived at my final destination with my headphones still blaring I felt truly grateful.  It was my own Hanukkah miracle.

Jessica Miller graduated from Barnard College in 2009 with a BA in religion, and is psyched to finally have an answer to the question, “so what does one do with a religion major?” Her writing has appeared on Jewcy, Mashable, and the Huffington Post.  In her spare time she can be found sailing, playing music, and blogging about boomerangs.