Wednesday, December 01, 2010

On the majorness and minorhood of Chanukah

Aren't you tired of people who explain that Chanukah is a "minor holiday"? According to a no-doubt well-meaning fellow at Slate, "as any rabbi will tell you . . . Hanukkah has traditionally been a minor Jewish festival." And then there are the not so well-meaning. In the charmingly titled post "Notes on Hanukkah: The Maccabees and Zionism’s ‘invented traditions’" a Mondoweissnik explains to us that "Hanukkah is a very minor Jewish holiday." What do they want from Chanukah's life? Do they want melacha to be an issur kareis? Do they want to eat potato-starch sufganiyot because of the prohibition of chametz? Do they want to build another sukkah?

Chanukah is one of the two major Rabbinic holidays (the other one is Purim). The Synagogue service actually makes a big deal about it: Al Hanisim, Whole-Hallel every day, a special Torah-reading every day. Then there is the "ascending in holiness" Menorah-lighting itself with all its regulations about when and where and how to kindle the lights. If you are a Jew, your major spiritual preoccupation for the next 8 days is going to be Chanukah. Shabbos is going to coincide with Chanukah for 24 hours in an incredibly potent combination called Shabbos Chanukah. Here is a picture of a 32-foot tall Menorah:

Actually, nothing is "minor" in Judaism. I'd say that is one of the many themes of the holiday.

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