I grew up with rabbits.
In the Catskills, in the summer, in the fifties, they hopped through my life and deep into my garden. They, like the deer, were part of our daily scenery. These white furry mammals always brought smiles to my face. Well, I exaggerate a bit, because when I found them in my garden—the bunnies having burrowed under my chicken-wire fence—munching on my carrots, peas and string beans.
I, in my best Elmer Fudd voice, I raised my clenched fist and yelled, “You darn wabbits. It’s wabbit season, and I’m hunting wabbits.” They feared Elmer. So they hopped and hid in their rabbitat, only to return in my absence.
Well, those darn wabbits ate half of the fruits of my labor but were always kind enough to leave thank-you notes in the form of tiny, perfectly-round brown pellets.
Each season they made their appearances.
In Woodridge winters, while schussing down “Pink Cloud”, I spotted them on the sides of the slope camouflaged under snow-laden fir trees. In the fresh snow I saw their tracks running across the ski trails. I laughed realizing that I knew why the Davos Ski Resort named Pink Cloud a bunny slope.
In the fall, while hiking the forests near the Rod and Gun Club, I’d watched rabbits scurry across the birches as if they knew hunters were taking aim at their furry-little bodies.
In the spring, I watched them scamper around abandoned bungalows. They played, frolicked and chased each other as only lovers can. Their hare brains totally focused or fixated on procreation or recreation or both. They had abandoned their fear of rifles as they hunted for carnal pleasure.
Well now you may ask, “Why am I reading this story?”
I wanted to learn about the Hanukkah Bunny and I get a seasonal travelogue of life of rabbits in the Mountains.
Okay, I hear you. Sorry for the diversion.
Fast forward fifty years, your are now in Cooper City, Florida. In the suburbs of Fort Lauderdale, in a land devoid of rabbits. Now here is the exception to the South Florida bunny residence rule—they can be found and purchased in pet shops and that’s where my neighbor buys a pair of bunnies for his kids.
Fast forward to the first day of December, 5:30 pm, and eight rabbits toured my cul-de-sac. Seeking freedom, the eight have burrowed under my neighbor’s wooden fence.
These rabbits still bring smiles of joy to my face as I recall my country childhood.
That afternoon, my wife hung blue and white, Stars of David Hanukkah lights to our soffits, planted a four-foot-high menorah covered in red, green and yellow light bulbs and secured a spinning, blinking three-foot-high dreidel into our front lawn.
At 5:30 pm, I plugged in the cords to the dreidel, the stars and the menorah. I watched transfixed as the lights glistened and the dreidel slowly started to spin.
I was not the only participant enjoying the festival of lights. One of the bunnies sat transfixed, staring at the turning dreidel. It was mesmerized by four Hebrew letters: the Nun, the Gimel, the Heh and the Shin. As if experiencing a religious awaking, this Hanukkah Bunny spent the next 30 nights on my lawn, in front of my dreidal, as if he or she wanted to send a biblical message to all those who questioned the story of a one day supply of temple oil burning for eight.
For a solid month, this biblical bunny returned every night to the same spot as if hypnotized by the blinking, spinning lights and spent the entire night in the glow of the dreidal.
You may ask, “What demon possessed this rabbit?”
I reply, ” It was no demon but the miracle of the Hanukkah Bunny.”
“Nes gadol hayah sham”—A great miracle happened there in Cooper City.