Sunday, December 09, 2012

NY Times on "True Meaning of Hanukkah"

Predictably, this NY Times article is a well-meaning mess. It does point out that the military victory is an important part of why we celebrate. All you need for that, of course, is the text of Al-Hanism. Here is how the article ends:
[...] Many believe the rabbis in the Talmud recounted the miracle of the light alongside the military victory because they did not want to glorify war. That in itself is an important teaching, as are the holiday’s related messages of renewal, hope and turning away from darkness.

But it’s a story with dark chapters as well, including the Maccabean leaders’ religious zealotry, forced conversions and deadly attacks on their neighbors. These transgressions need to be grappled with. And that is precisely what the most important Jewish holidays do: Jews on Passover spill out wine from their glasses to acknowledge Egyptian suffering caused by the 10 plagues, and congregations at Rosh Hashana read and struggle with God’s order to Abraham to bind his son Isaac as a sacrifice.

If we’re going to magnify Hanukkah, we should do so because it offers the deeper meaning and opportunity for introspection that the major Jewish holidays provide.
Earlier in the article, the author explained that
Though Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday, 19th-century activists in America promoted it to encourage their coreligionists to take pride in their heritage. During the 20th century it was embraced more broadly by Jews who wanted to fit in with other Americans celebrating the holiday season . . .
It may be that these things happened among assimilated Jews because Chanukah was perceived as "minor," but it lasts eight days, Al-Hamisim (a good source of the "true meaning of Chanukah") is added to every Shmoneh Esrei and Bentching, there is Whole-Hallel every day, a Torah-reading every day, the Menorah lighting itself. If you take your religious life seriously, it is bound to have a major impact. And what does it all mean?
In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the wicked Hellenic government rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will. But You, in Your abounding mercies, stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, defended their rights, and avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah.

You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and effected a great deliverance and redemption for Your people Israel to this very day. Then Your children entered the shrine of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courtyards, and instituted these eight days of Chanukah to give thanks and praise to Your great Name.
Sounds like a major holiday and major meaning to me. Perhaps some introspection is called for, but in a mode of joyous celebration, not the politically correct introspection promoted by this article.

1 comment:

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Hm... I have already realized the mistake of my ways. No more stupid demotivational posters of doubtful provenance, I promise ;-)

Well, maybe one or two more...