Tag: Chanukah

What a 2,000-Year-Old Story Can Teach America

 

Every month I’ve been leading a group on Zoom to discuss some aspect of Judaism that we all may not know much about. Although some of my research describes familiar practices and beliefs, almost everyone learns something new. This month we discussed Chanukah, which begins very early on the secular calendar on November 28. We reviewed not only the familiar stories, but I realized that everyone, American Jews and non-Jews alike, have opportunities to reframe the way we see our lives during a season that is holy for many. These are the insights that emerged for me.

The Lighting of the Chanukah candles—

Most people probably know that Jews light eight candles, plus the shamash, which is the lead candle. The candles are lit to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah: when the Maccabees liberated the Temple from the Seleucids and restored and cleaned it, they found only one pure cruse of oil remaining. It was enough to burn for one day, but it burned for eight days, until additional oil arrived. To Jews, the miracle was a reminder that G-d was once again with us. The shamash, which is used to light the other candles, serves as the leader in this process. It “lights the way” to remind us of the miracle of the holiday.

Three Important Hanukkah Messages

 

Two messages by President Trump, and one exceptional video message from Prime Minister Johnson, set the right tone for the two nations’ recognition of a minority faith that has been under increasing assault. President Trump, having earlier held an annual Hanukkah reception, at which he signed a significant executive order to combat universities increasingly open anti-Semitism, published a warm presidential message on Hanukkah 2019. Yet, this year, it was Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Chanukah message that cut to the heart of the history and current problems in the United Kingdom. In the context of Labour being rejected by the British people, in significant part due to the exceptionally nasty piece of work leading that party, Jeremy Corbyn, PM Johnston spoke strongly and plainly about the right of British Jews to be both, publicly, without fear of harassment or worse.

Note that this video, like the one below, is official. 10 Downing Street is the official YouTube channel of the British Prime Minister, as White House is the official YouTube channel of the President of the United States.

Mounting Debt at the Holidays: Is it Worth it?

 

Now you may think I don’t have a dog in this hunt. Jewish gift giving is a fairly recent phenomenon. Then again, there are plenty of Jews who have put up Chanukah trees, too, and talk about Santa Claus coming to town. But I digress.

In my childhood family, gift-giving at Chanukah was very modest. The two years I remember most—one, I received a beautiful knit blouse with large pearl-like buttons. I wore it for years until it fell apart (or maybe I grew out of it). The other nights of Chanukah I received candy, a hairbrush, and other inexpensive treats. Another year my parents bought my brother and me a gift to share: a second-hand bicycle with training wheels. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven. It never occurred to my parents to go into debt for gifts.

In these days, however, the rising credit card debt is worse than ever. Even with the recovering economy, people treat credit cards as cash. A Nerd Wallet study not only reported alarming credit card usage but compared this year’s results to last year’s, reporting that shoppers plan to:

The Miracle of Chanukah

 

Last year I was inspired by a grand, beautiful menorah that @iwe and his family made for Chanukah. I convinced my husband to help me make one, and here it is! We made it of PVC that we sawed, glued and painted, and used battery-operated candles. (It is, at least, OSHA-approved.)

I will be lighting our other menorah with real candles and the new one Sunday evening, the lead candle (Shamas) and the first candle. It is a poignant time to remember not only the Maccabees who fought against the Seleucids, but all those men who have battled against the odds.

Music for Light in Darkness

 

A little over three months ago, I shared “Beautiful Dark Things,” a piece of music along with an essay on drawing creative inspiration from nature. Sometime in September, I realized that the rhythm of that music fit well to the first half of Isaiah 60:1, “Arise, shine, Jerusalem; for thy light is come,” or in Latin, “Jerusalem surge illuminare, quia venit lumen tuum.” Cannibalizing a secular (or, as I often sense, just not overtly sacred) piece for use in sacred music is a venerable tradition. As Luther said, why should the devil have all the best tunes?

Not only did many Christmas hymns start out as secular carols, but even oratorios get in on the game. Handel repurposed several secular love duets for his Messiah. If you’re familiar with choruses from Handel’s Messiah such as, “For unto us a child is born,” “And he shall purify,” “His yoke is easy,” and “All we like sheep,” you’ll recognize them here. So, I’m in good company.

Member Post

 

Chanukah is the celebration of dissidents defeating well-meaning globalist universalist intolerant fundamentalists. It’s a particularist Jewish holiday, but the first two modern Chanukah images that came to mind were Christian bakers and the Little Sisters of the Poor. Preview Open

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