Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Happy Assimilated Hannukah Everyone!

Happy Hannukah to all; may your dreidles spin mightily and your candles burn brightly!

Last year I celebrated by making latkes that caused heartburn for eight days, even though I only used enough oil for one. Not repeating that.

Thought for the week: last year our temple had a guest speaker most notable for the fact that every time he visits us, he pisses off at least me and usually one of my friends. Not in a "Sir, I disagree with your conclusion!" kind of way; more a "Why did you tell my Catholic friend that all Christians are guilty of massacring Jews at Easter?" way.

Anyway. Last year he gave a very patriotic/jingoistic "Yay for Hannukah!" speech, celebrating one of the central story of the holiday: the victory of traditional Judaism over the Hellenistic Jews. A triumph of preserving our religion, he said!

Problem is, he said this in a room where every Jew was carrying a cell phone on Friday night.

The Hellenistic Jews were the assimilated modern Jews of their day. Nowadays the closest parallel to the Maccabbe/Hellenist conflict is probably the Ultra-Orthodox/Reform rift. Given that, how do we understand Hannukah so that it's a celebration of maintaining and preserving our tradition, without including the self-hating, anti-modernist aspect?


1 comment:

  1. This comes directly from a friend of mine:

    "My take is that the" Helenistic Jews" at that time were not Jews at all because the Syrian Greeks were out for the complete eradication of Judaism. The Greeks were barbequeing pigs in the temple, etc. Today I guess the comparison would be if a "Jew" just stood by and toasted marsmallows on a fire of Sefer Torahs! No Jew in my book. Going back to 300 BCE to be Helenistic was to elevate/worship the beauty of the human body and mind. To be Jewish is to elevate/ worship that which is beyond the human and physical. The battle of Chanukah was a World War over whether the Physical or the Spiritual would prevail. Through the might of HaShem we were victorious. So I challenge the comparison. The Haredi ( let's not call it orthodox-too wide a group) and Reform rift is is not an existential battle over whether Judaism survives but I would guess more of a Catholic vs. Unitarian thing. So I prefer teaching Chanukah as the victory of the Eternal over the Temporal and as long as one spark of the Eternal exists then it is enough to light a fire in the world to defeat darkness. A small band of Jews who carried that spark defeated the mightiest superpower of the time. Chanukah should encourage each of us to recognize that we each have that light of Betzelem Elokim within us and that like the Chanukiah we have a duty to let it shine to the world,be a shamash and use it to light other candles, watch it grow, use it to conquer the evils we face today and to be a partner in Tikkun Olam."

    - Leon