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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash


Last night marked the fifth night of Chanukah.

Chanukah is a holiday of counting, although it is not the only time we count during the Jewish calendar year. Between Pesach and Shavuot we count the days from freedom to receiving the Torah. On Chanukah we count the days that the miracle lasted. There is even a discussion between Hillel and Shamai as to whether we count from eight days to one (Shamai) or from one day to eight (Hillel). There are other counting traditions, such as not counting Jewish people which can make checking the number people present at a minyan a little complicated, when people count using the term "not one, not two, not three."

During this year's commemoration of the miracle of Chanukah, there are many ways that we can look at the meaning of counting. For the past two months we have counted many things, including numbers of days of war, missiles, armaments, hostages, casualities, tragedies. More recently the concept of who counts and who doesn't count has been part of the news in this area of the Diaspora. This is a poem about the many meanings of counting and being counted.

May your lights shine bright and may we hear good news soon.



Not one, not two, not three.

Jews count,

or maybe we don't.

Jews are still learning

about counting,

or not.


days of a war,

of captivity.

more counting...

incidents, tanks,

numbers of fallen,

of missing.

Numbers of displaced,

of orphans,

of denials, of Instagram likes,

of marches and demonstrations,

denunciations, denials,

of horrors

numbers of enemies,

numbers of friends.

Numbers of tears shed.

Not four, not five, not six

Jews count,

or maybe we don't.

We count

good deeds and bad,

mothers and fathers,

daughters and sons

not counting on others,

          but counting on ourselves. 

Not seven, not eight.

Jews count,

or maybe we don't.

Small bright candles lit on dark nights.

See how the light shines bright,

even during the darkest of times.

So we count.

We count on our strength

We count on our resilience

and we count

days and nights until a miracle occurs.

וְעַל הַנִּסִּים וְעַל הַפֻּרְקָן וְעַל הַגְּבוּרוֹת וְעַל הַתְּשׁוּעוֹת וְעַל הַמִּלְחָמוֹת שֶׁעָשִׂיתָה לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ בַּיָמִים הָהֵם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה

In honor of the miracles and deliverance,

Heroic deeds and salvation wrought

And wars You fought, for our fathers,

In days of yore and in present time.


For more on the ideas behind not counting people in Judaism


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