We have focused on the miracle thing and I think we often overlook the message of Hanukkah. To me, the core of the holiday is the cleansing of the temple… The accomplishment was in restoring the temple to the purpose which it was built. Now think of the temple as a symbol. Perhaps it represents my life. The world has tried to use for its own (perhaps good, but none-the-less extrinsic) purposes. But now I can rededicate myself to my own original purpose. Ralph Levy Another View

Dear Friends,

Once more the Holidays of Christmas and Hanukkah intersect. I don’t know which is more difficult to deal with; when they coincide or when they fall far apart. Credit or blame the Jewish calendar which is based on the cycles of the moon with its 19 year intercalculation of the solar calendar. (This is why we have a leap month every 2nd or 3rd year)

What they have in common is apparent; a time to keep warm as the shortest days approach, the emphasis on light and the never ending calories to be enjoyed and avoided. As for the themes of history they could not be more different. The Messianism in the Christian celebration is paramount, a concept that we sired but whose fulfillment awaits us still. Our celebratory theme emphasized freedom. But most distinctively it is the Jewish insistence that our uniqueness was worth the sacrifice and that our struggles to remain Jewish are to be heralded. That another message of freedom of diversity for all people has been grafted on to our holiday is worthy, but not central. The tendency to emphasize the latter as we ignore the distinctive message of being Jewish for its own sake is our loss.

This has led to the universalization of Chanukah as a sad usurpation by non-Jews of our holiday. It takes the form of the odd celebration
called Chrismakah, a false fusion of the two traditions that are not fully the same, but in some measure quite different. Other fake aspects like Chanukah tinsel is imitation of Christmas as is the so-called Hanukkah bush. The Christmas tree, to thoughtful devout Christian devotes, is filled with great meaning; the tinsel is the angel’s hair that flowed at Jesus’ birth, the star at the top is the Star of Bethlehem announcing his birth, the wreath with red berries is the future blood spilled on his crown of thorns. None of these comport with Jewish belief or practice. More than this it is usurpation of Christian holy objects which ought not to be done.

I know I am in the “meaning business” and I tend to take all traditions seriously and respectfully. I appreciate Christmas, Kwanza, and Chinese New Year, but from afar. They are not my celebrations.

Boundaries are important to respect.

Still ours the dance, the feast, the glorious Psalm, The Mystic lights of emblem, and the Word. Emma Lazarus The Feast of Lights

Wishing you a great Hanukkah, Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz, D.D.