April 24, 2024
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April 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The holiday of Chanukah is upon us, one of the longest Jewish holidays, stretching out over eight consecutive nights. That relatively long duration is sort of strange for a non-major holiday, especially since one of the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, is far shorter. Of course, it is not surprising that Yom Kippur is much shorter than Chanukah because eight straight days/nights of fasting would likely have a very dramatic and unfortunate effect on the world’s Jewish population.

You will not find Chanukah discussed in the Torah or the broader Tanach. (As an aside, some refer to the Torah and Tanach as “T-n-T” because if you read both they will blow… your… mind!!!) If Chanukah is not mentioned in the Torah or Tanach, then how do we know that Chanukah is meant to last eight nights in a row? For the explanation, look no further than the Talmud wherein it states that the oil in the Holy Temple was defiled but the Jews “searched and found only one cruse of oil that was placed with the seal of the High Priest [and was undisturbed]… and there was sufficient oil there to light the candelabrum for only one day. A miracle occurred and they lit the candelabrum from it eight days. The next year the Sages instituted those [eight] days and made them holidays with recitation of hallel and special thanksgiving in prayer and blessings.“ (Shabbat 21b:10) So there you have it. Our Sages established the eight days/nights of Chanukah to commemorate the miracle of the Temple oil lasting that long.

Eight straight nights certainly is not a brief commemoration or celebration. A person could accomplish quite a bit in eight straight days/nights. For example, a cruise from New York to London could be achieved in that amount of time. In theory, a spacecraft could journey to and back from the moon in eight days/nights. Perhaps more impressively, a tourist could experience the full magic of Disneyworld—including the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, Disney Springs and Downtown Disney—in eight straight days/nights. Alternatively, during that same amount of time a person could go on the “It’s a Small World” ride about 768 times in a row. Of course, if you have ever played Jewish Geography, then you already know that it truly is a small world after all.

While the holiday of Chanukah is a wonderful celebration filled with warmth, joy and togetherness, that does not mean that everything else in life should last eight straight nights. Truth be told, there are many things in this world that the average person would not enjoy doing for eight straight nights. For example, few would enjoy:

eight straight nights of having your in-laws sleeping over. (Make sure to wear your judgment-cancelling headphones at all times);

eight straight nights of listening to your spouse loudly and incessantly snore. (That would be a perfectly legitimate and understandable grounds for divorce);

eight straight nights of eating leftovers. (FYI: calling something a leftover does not magically toll all expiration dates. At some point, even leftovers go bad.);

eight straight nights of listening to a rabbi’s dullest and least inspiring sermon. (Even some prisoners of war do not suffer such torment);

eight straight nights of dealing with a colicky baby. (This absolutely is not a reason to give a child up for adoption. That said, to have such an awful, sleep-deprived thought momentarily is not patently unreasonable);

eight straight nights of waiting on a long, slow-moving line at the DMV. (Can’t you just use Uber and Lyft to get everywhere you need to go?);

eight straight nights of watching your child’s Little League Baseball games. (“At this point, I actually hope my child gets hit by a pitch just so he can finally get on base”);

eight straight nights of vision testing with the world’s least patient optometrist. (“Stop telling me that they look the same! I won’t accept that! You’ve got to make up your mind! Now for the last time: which is better, one or two?!?!?”);

eight straight nights of playing in overly intense and competitive Jenga tournaments for large sums of money and with a partner who is extremely klutzy. (Even worse, the same partner foolishly refuses to play dreidel because he suffers from motion sickness); or

eight straight nights of singing “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay….” (Those lyrics are so dated; nobody makes dreidels out of clay anymore. Let’s update the song: “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of polystyrene. And when it’s dry and ready, oh ‘Gimmel’ I shall scream”).

Final thought: It is better to spin a dreidel than to spin a tale. And if you’re playing dreidel with a kick-happy donkey, then it’s really not a good idea to spin a tail.

By Jon Kranz

 

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