May 26, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 26, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Hypocrisy of Chanukah? Yes!

Want to clickbait a rabbi? Easy. Write an article in the Times, title it “The Hypocrisy of Hanukkah” and you’re done.

Indeed, as soon as I saw the title I was already annoyed. Who dares to criticize Chanukah? Luckily I didn’t run out of my free articles for this month (it’s only the sixth), as I was even willing to buy a subscription just to find out!

Not surprisingly, the person criticizing one of the most loved Jewish holidays was a Jew himself, a member of the tribe. Ah, we are often our own harshest critics, I told myself. Yet, when I started reading the article, my annoyance was replaced with fascination.

The writer, Mr. Michael David Lukas, was relaying how his 3-year-old daughter wanted to know if they will be celebrating Christmas. She was dismayed to learn that the only holiday on the schedule is Chanukah. Being a good dad who doesn’t like to disappoint his daughter, the writer wanted to learn more about Chanukah.

He found out that the story of Chanukah is “based on a historical conflict between the Maccabees and the Hellenized Jews, the former being religious zealots who lived in the hills of Judea and practiced an ancient form of guerrilla warfare, the latter being mostly city-dwelling,” and he wondered aloud, “What am I if not a Hellenized Jew?” which led him to question why he even celebrates Chanukah in the first place.

But despite all of that, he proclaimed, “I’m not quite Hellenized enough to get a Christmas tree.”

So Chanukah it is. By the time I finished reading the article, I couldn’t help but feel inspired.

You see, Mr. Lukas, you are a novelist. You know how to look beyond the optics, to see the true, inner plot. Because the narrative is often not what it seems to be at first glance. Think about it. The Maccabees’ war was not between avocado-toast-eating millennials and cave-dwellers. Nor was it a battle between rural traditionalists and cultured city dwellers. There was an underlying question they both wanted to address, and each group offered its own solution.

The question of that generation was: Can the Jewish people survive? Is it rational to expect the nation constantly targeted to even stand a chance?

Many Jews felt that the answer was no. “Adapt or die,” goes the saying, and they chose to adapt. They embraced the Hellenized culture and worshiped the pagan gods of the time. It simply made sense. But a small group of Jews argued otherwise.

“Our survival cannot be explained by logic,” they insisted. “Look at our history! We survived some of the most brutal persecutions in history, we endured suffering like no one else on earth, yet we are still here.

“We made it to this point because we kept true to our identity, to God and his Torah. And yes, we can overcome the mighty Greek army. We defy logic, and are not defined by it!”

Did you know, Mr. Lukas, that at first the Maccabees were just only one family? Only later, more and more people joined the movement. And I believe that many former Hellenized Jews joined as well.

I believe they all had their “Maccabee” moments. The moment when one is facing the question: Does it really make sense to stay Jewish? To continue to practice my Jewish faith? And many times, people are surprised to hear their own responses. It might seem illogical, but in truth it transcends logic. It flows from our core, our deep consciousness, our soul.

In your discussion of “The Hypocrisy of Hanukkah,” I saw your very own Maccabee moment. Your little daughter wanted you to do something that seems so simple. You could have just said yes and made her happy. But you said no.

You chose to celebrate Chanukah. Because you have a Jewish soul.

Mr. Lukas, as a rabbi, I see those Maccabee moments every day. The miracle of Chanukah keeps on happening before our eyes. You wondered how it is possible that Chanukah is the most celebrated holiday among the assimilated Jews.

I think we found the answer.

By Rabbi Mendy Kaminker


Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the rabbi of Chabad of Hackensack.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles