“Oh Chanukah, O Chanukah.. Let’s light the menorah,” and depending on which of my classes version you believe either dance the hora or move to Flor’da… This past week at school the students have been practicing for yearly Chanukah performance at the local nursing homes and for our own gathering at the synagogue. The students are excited. I am excited. We’ re planning to bake red velvet cupcakes for the Rabbi’s party this year, and of course, we are making latkes.
And while on some level I don’t think I need to say this, on another I am reminder that I do. Last year someone handed the Rabbi a page explaining Chanukah as the “Jewish X-mass” at just such an event. (Why someone thought the Rabbi needed notes to talk about the festival is maybe another discussion.) These well meaning notes (being generous here) were provided by a nice adult, Jewish girl via her new, also I assume nice, Jewish boyfriend. The problem seemed to be that they were downloaded from the Internet and, I am guessing, not read carefully. There is a lot of misinformation on line, as I am sure you know. And not just about Chanukah. Though more recently I have received a number of ads on line such as “Star of David” tree toppers and “Discount Jewish Rosary Beads”. Now I admit I am on-line a lot more than I once was, so this may not be as new a development as I believe, and I also admit that not all practices are exactly the same, but I was a little confused.
Chanukah, the festival of lights, celebrates the miracle of the oil lasting eight days and the joy that we survived and thrived in the face of adversity. It reminds us, without a doubt, who we are, and what we believe, and the wisdom not to let others dictate or change this in anyway. Judaism doesn’t bend to the will of popular culture or outside influence. And how many things can you say that about?
Given the opportunity, we should remind not only our children of the complete story, of course, and what that means to us today. But additionally, each time we hear misinformation, please take a moment, if we can, to address it, in comments on blogs and info/news pages or letters to the editor. These comments don’t have to be hostile-think of it as an opportunity to address another the spirit of teaching. One wouldn’t yell at a child for what they didn’t know, only seek to help them learn. Also helpful is sending a corresponding link or resource. This way, one can use shorter answers and not have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ as the saying goes.
Understandably, we cannot always spend our time explaining and explaining to various and sundry people. Especially considering that some people, particularly in real time, are not always as receptive as we might wish. I do not, on every occasion that I am wished a “Merry X-mass” go on to explain that I am Jewish, that we do not celebrate X-mass, and so on. Sometimes, I just reply with what I hope is an innocuous, “Have a nice holiday.”
Language is telling. When we want to explain a subject we say we want to “shed a little light” on it; When we want to reveal something hidden, we talk about “bringing it to light”; when someone demonstrates understanding, we say they “see the light.”
Hoping the light and warmth of Chanukah are with you the whole yearlong.