It’s Chanukah night four. Almost time to light the candles. And after listening to the Maccabeats “Candlelight” (2:05-2:30 is the best singing. Go Gingi!) over and over (resistance is futile) and reading the hysterical (with a few anti-Semitic and anti-Israel) comments on Youtube, I think it’s time that a public declaration is made.
It’s time to stop being apologists about Chanukah.
Yes, you know who you are. The people who say, Chanukah is only a popular holiday because it’s near Christmas. Perhaps the popularity part is true, but who cares? Chanukah has been an important Jewish holiday for over 1000 years. The reason the celebration of it changed in about 140 C.E. to focus on the “miracle of the candlelight” was because Judaism changed from a nationalistic religion to entirely a spiritual one. The holidays then that really mattered were the ones based on spirituality and time (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, Shavuot). The dreydel, as I learned as a kid, was created as a ruse for kids to grab quickly to play so they wouldn’t get in trouble in anti-Semitic societies if they were studying Jewish texts.
It's the 21st century. There is a Jewish Nation State with modern day Maccabees (although most of them aren’t religious zealots like the original Maccabees. Chanukah is not just a story about fighting the Assyrian Greeks but it was also a Jewish civil war to wipe out elements of assimilation) living in Israel. We have a globally thriving Jewish community who shouldn’t feel that Chanukah is Christmas’ concubine.
Du du du du. Du du du du.
Also, the lessons from the Chanukah story are lovely. They commemorate perseverance during adversity, valuing of freedom of religion and being thankful for miracles. And who wouldn’t mind a miracle right now with rising unemployment, two unwinnable wars, a lame and lame duck Congress, a State Department that has lost much of its international credibility, fires in Israel, etc. etc.?
So I’m going to go light my Chanukiah (menorah), say the blessings, and then limit myself to 10 more listens of Candlelight and the South Park Dreydel song (a little offensive). Then I need to clean my apartment after last night’s work Shabbanica party because my parents are spending the night here tomorrow to celebrate Chanukah with their grandchildren, and remember my awesome Zadie who was born on the fifth candle. On the sixth candle, I hope my present is a good report from my dad’s doctor that he is three years Cancer free.