After the excursion, we went to the supermarket to pick up a particular gift that will be presented later tonight, but also treated ourselves to sufganiyot.
Then we went to watch my nephew's Little League baseball game - his team, from Hashmonaim, played against the team from Modiin; the epic Chanukah battle ended in a 9-9 tie.
After we finish bathing and lighting, we will be headed to my folks' home for our annual Chanukah shindig with the extended family.
The night will conclude with that traditional combination of beer and foootball, and I will probably be up late watching the Ravens game (unless the Patriots lose the early game; even if they win, I don't want to hear any Pts fans whining. They had a softball schedule, playing a full 8 games against the AFC and NFC west).
Sundays happen so infrequently here, but when they do present themselves, they are truly enjoyable. So enjoy this happy conflation of Chanukah, Rosh Chodesh, and Sunday!
Kind of makes you forget that a war just started here...
Wherever Hamas operates, civilians live and work close by.Translation: Hamas uses civilian shields to deter attacks that will include inevitable civilian collateral damage.
The United States is arguably the only outside power Israel deeply cares about.Translation: The United States is arguably the only outside power that deeply cares about Israel.
This celebration is also characteristic of
The theme of Jewish freedom of worship is certainly present in various midrashim that describe the decrees against the practice of Judaism (Rosh Chodesh, circumcision, Torah study, etc.) and against belief in the God of the Jews (kitvu al keren ha-shor…). It appears in the al ha-nisim paragraph as well (“to make them forget Your Torah and transgress Your beloved commandments”). Other compositions seem to indicate that Judaism was in actual danger of disappearance due to the onslaught of Hellenism. In fact, the entire theme of rededication of the
Of course, the American version tends to superimpose 20th Century American ideas of religious identity and freedom onto the 2nd Century BCE, but hey, we try to keep it warm and fuzzy.
It is anticipated that Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans and Washington Field Divisions will have a variety of language requirements for Title III linguist support in the various locations. Required languages are as follows; Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Laotian, Jamaican Patois, Chinese (Cantonese), Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Russian, Albanian, and Ebonics.
The notion that Chanukah might correspond to the holidays of other cultural traditions is not a new one. The Gemara in Avoda Zarah (2b) speaks of an eight day holiday, Saturnalia, first celebrated by Adam when he noticed that the days had begun to get longer. Indeed, innumerable cultures hold celebrations around the winter solstice, and it is an intuitive annual landmark. In general, Jewish holidays do correspond to the seasons. Sukkot, a harvest festival, is not the same as Thanksgiving or Oktoberfest, but they are rooted in a similar consciousness (see here).
Christmas seems to have originated as the Christianized version of pagan midwinter festivals. Various yuletide customs have been traced (correctly or incorrectly) back to pagan practices. This being the case, an argument can be made (though not an especially compelling one) that Christmas and Chanukah share some lineage.
The historical question is largely beside the point, however. In the American cultural milieu, Christmas became a dominant cultural practice that excluded non-Christians (such as Jews and Chinese, who inevitably began celebrating Christmas together, with the former eating food prepared by the latter). Chanukah, by virtue of its temporal proximity to Christmas, naturally filled that void.
Not all “observances” and customs associated with this syncretistic celebration are as over-the-top as the “Hanukkah bush” or “Hanukkah Harry”. The giving of “Chanukah presents” has penetrated even the more traditional segments of the Jewish community. American gentile culture clearly associates the two holidays since it has adopted the generic “happy holiday” greeting to cover all observances associated with the season. Television commercials with Christian and Jewish symbols appear during the season. The term “Christmakwanzukkah” has come to symbolize this amalgam of various traditions and observances.
There has been a more recent shift in American culture for Jews to take pride in their identity, but this trend nevertheless uses Christmas as the yardstick. To wit: “Instead of one day of presents, we’ve got eight crazy nights”.
Last week, my daughter’s chareidi school had a pre-Chanukah party in which the girls performed a number of songs on the holiday theme (or so I was told by my wife, who was allowed to attend; as a man, I was not). The songs were well known selections such as “Baruch Elokeinu she-beranu le-khvodo…” and “Ashreinu mah tov chelkeinu”. The themes of these songs was Jewish isolation and separatism.
I recently read several articles by Dr. Benjamin Brown, including “Rabbi E.M. Shach: Admiration of Spirit, Critique of Nationalism, and Political Involvement”. The thesis of the article is that this type of separatism was a pillar of R’ Shach’s worldview and politics.
Chanukah, in this way of thinking, celebrates the maintenance of the purity of the Jewish/ Torah way of life in the face of prevailing culture. As opposed to the Zionist celebration, which focuses on the external enemy of the Chanukah story, the Chareidi narrative highlights the internal enemies, the Hellenizing Jews, as the primary antagonists (a point which I satirized with an alternative story of the origin of the custom of spinning the dreidl here).
Many of the themes of the holiday lend themselves easily to this approach – small lights in the face of overwhelming darkness, untouched flasks of pure oil, an obligation of the entire household as one, the idea of being surrounded by mitzvot, and the notable midrash that appears in Rashi on the leyning for the last day of Chanukah – “shelcha gedolah mi-shelahem, she-atah meitiv u-madlik et ha-neitrot” (“yours is superior to theirs, for you set up and light the candles”).
In truth, the themes of particularism and universalism have been in tension within Judaism for a very long time – even before the Chanukah story. I do not believe that it is possible to resolve the question of whether Judaism in universal or particularist in favor of one approach or the other. There is no doubt, though, that different groups of Jews have adopted attitudes all along the spectrum. The Chareidi approach strongly tends toward the particularist end of the spectrum. Like the Zionist celebration, this approach picks up on the elements of Chanukah that corroborate its fundamental narrative of radical cultrural/ religious isolationism.
Last year, I wrote a short post about how the Chanukah narrative is shaped by the group celebrating, and that different Jewish groups celebrate, essentially, different Chanukahs.
Three years ago, I wrote a different Dvar Torah on each night of Chanukah (all of them can be viewed under this label, or in the archives for December 2005). This year, I will combine the two elements, and write about a different form of celebration each night.
Early mainstream Zionism adopted Chanukah as a celebration of the victories of a Jewish army. In its vigor to create the “New Jew”, the Zionist movement enlisted every example of a Jewish military hero and celebrated him as a Zionist or proto-Zionist figure. It gave the nascent state and pre-state a sense of continuity and tradition with a distant but glorious and heroic past. This ardor to generate a new Jewish narrative of “strength” is best expressed (and caricatured) in Hazaz’s famous short story, The Sermon (1942):
Jewish history is so dull, so uninteresting. It has no glory or action, no heroes and conquerors, no rulers and masters of their fate, just a collection of wounded, hunted, groaning and wailing wretches always begging for mercy. I would simply forbid teaching our children Jewish history. Why the devil teach them about their ancestors' shame? I would just say to them: `Boys, from the day we were driven out from our land, we've been a people without a history. Class dismissed. Go out and play football!’
This ethos was projected onto the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, and is even reflected in several very popular Israeli folk songs for Chanukah. This first one is the Hebrew rendition of the Yiddish Oy, Chanekeh or English Oh, Chanukah:
,ימי החנוכה חנוכת מקדשנו
בגיל ובשמחה ממלאים את ליבנו
לילה ויום סביבונינו יסוב
.סופגניות נאכל בם לרוב
!האירו ! הדליקו
נרות חנוכה רבים
על הניסים ועל הנפלאות
.אשר חוללו המכבים
,ניצחון המכבים נספר, נזמרה
על האויבים אז ידם כי גברה
ירושלים שבה לתחיה
.עם ישראל עשה תושיה
!האירו ! הדליקו
The key point lies in lines 7-11, which describe the miracles, wonders, and victories wrought by the Macabees. The other example, perhaps even more classic, is entitled Mi Yimalel (Who Can Retell?)
?מי ימלל גבורות ישראל אותם מי ימנה
העם הן בכל דור יקום הגבור גואל
בימים ההם בזמן הזה
מכבי מושיע ופודה
ובימינו כל עם ישראל
.יתאחד יקום ויגאל
Here, the Zionist ethos comes to the fore right off the bat: “Who can retell the strengths of
This general transposition is reflected in many other ubiquitous (and therefore barely noticed anymore) elements of Israeli culture.
There is no doubt that this celebration of the Jewish military victory drew from traditional sources. One cannot but help get the feeling, however, that the conclusion of Yudke’s speech in Hazaz’s story underlies this Zionist Chanukah narrative:
Zionism and Judaism are not the same. They are two very different things entirely, maybe even opposed to one another. When a man can no longer be a Jew, he becomes a Zionist.