There’s a children’s book I really love, called Hertzel and the Hanukkah Goblins. It’s about a Jewish village that is plagued by meddlesome goblins, who show up every year and prevent residents from celebrating Hanukkah. Every year, that is, until Hertzel of Ostropol shows up and agrees to beat the goblins at their own game.
As Hertzel hunkers down to celebrate Hanukkah, he is visited every night by a different goblin. Each one is intent on disrupting Hertzel’s celebration in its own way. And each night, Hertzel manages to outwit the disruptive creature.
One evening, Hertzel is visited by a particularly silly-looking goblin, who is very hungry. He immediately notices the large jar of pickles that Hertzel has left out on the table. The goblin ravenously descends on the pickle jar, thrusting his hand inside and grasping all of the pickles.
Suddenly, the goblin realizes his hand is stuck! He struggles to free himself from the jar, but his hand won’t budge. He screams at Hertzel, What did you do to this jar? What enchantment did you put on it that you’ve trapped me like this? The goblin stands there, struggling to extract his hand from the briney mess, while Hershel lights the menorah candles and celebrates Hanukkah.
After he’s finished, Hertzel puts the poor goblin out of his misery. He tells him, You know, the only enchantment keeping your hand inside that jar is the power of your own greed. If you’ll let go of the pickles, removing your hand is easy!
Releasing the pickles, the goblin is finally able to pull his hand out of the jar. He runs screaming into the night. The goblin wants no more to do with Hershel and his magic tricks!
This story resonates with me, because I’ve found myself with my hand stuck in the pickle jar more times than I’d like to admit. I have all sorts of hopes and dreams that I’m unwilling to let go of. I get so caught up in my own sense of should and ought. I forget that my life is so much bigger than any of the tasks I occupy myself with. I am free to let go of the pickles any time I want. Why is it so hard for me to see this?
What’s the pickle jar in your life? Where have you given away your freedom and joy? What are those things that you cling to so tightly that you lose your sense of imagination? What will it take to get your hand out of that jar? What will you need to surrender?
The Meaning of Life? Just One Thing.