Conservative Liberal

FDR would have been a Republican today.

Hanukkah and Christmas


It is the holiday season, with all its usual excitement and controversy. The main holiday of this season is, of course, Christmas, which happens to be a federal holiday. For some reason Christmas keeps generating controversy. Some people lament commercialization of this holiday, while others (I call them “perpetually offended”) complain that Christmas is not for everybody. But I don’t see anything wrong with the excitement of giving and receiving presents: that is what the holidays are all about. It is like everybody gets birthday presents at once. As for Christmas not being for everybody, that is not entirely correct. Bill O’Reily of Fox News once suggested that Christmas is the celebration of birth and life of Jesus Christ, a philosopher on whos ideas this country was founded. Upon thinking about that, I decided that it made sense. This country is indeed founded on Judeo-Christian values. So, there is nothing wrong with celebrating a birthday of a Jewish philosopher. Indeed, the more observant Jews never object to that.
Still, I am Jewish. So for me “Christmas” comes a few days early, in the form of Hanukkah. As it happens, Hanukkah is the least religious of all the Jewish holidays. It is essentially a celebration of the victory of ancient Israelites over oppressive occupiers, who would not leave the Jews alone. So, Hanukkah is much closer to the Victory Day commemorating the victory over the Nazis or to American Independence Day than to any religious holiday. Hanukkah is the most American of all the Jewish holidays, since it celebrates the victory of freedom over oppression. Additionally, Dennis Prager mentioned the other day that Hanukkah is as important for the Christians, as it is for the Jews, since it preserved the idea of Monotheism. In my non-religious view the whole story of the miracle of one day supply of oil lasting 8 days is a side issue. What is often overlooked is the similarity between Christianity and Judaism. What was lit in the Temple after its liberation from the Greeks was the menorah, the same one that can be seen on the Israeli Coat of Arms.

The same menorah is lit in the Christian churches. The difference is that in the Jewish tradition the menorah is not lit until the Third Temple is rebuilt, while in Christian tradition the Messiah has arrived, so it’s OK to light up the menorah. What commonly referred to as a menorah, is really a Hanukiah, a nine-branched candelabrum for 8 candles representing each day of Hanukkah and 9th to lit the other candles.
So, let’s celebrate everything. Let’s get excited about getting presents for everybody we care about. To my fellow Jews – Happy Hanukkah! To my non-Jewish friends – Merry Christmas! And to perpetually offended – get a life!

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December 19, 2006 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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