Hanukah is finished for this year. 

I had some thoughts while it was in progress, with no adequate time to write them down or form them into an essay or blog post.

1. I take the holiday very seriously, although joyously.
In a couple of places — Facebook, for example — I saw people post “Hanukah” pictures of dogs wearing kipot, “looking” at the candles of the menorah.
I found it deeply offensive and disrespectful.
I don’t ask for or expect that everyone will feel the same as I do.
I do ask, however, that people who do feel that Judaism is a “joke” try to understand that maybe not everyone feels the way they do.
I wouldn’t go into a meeting of the American Atheist Society (if it still exists) and make jokes about their beliefs.
Nor would I makes jokes about atheists in a public forum like Facebook or other social media.
In fact, I don’t remember making jokes about atheists at all. I respect beliefs, even if they aren’t my own.

2. Lighting the candles one night, I felt like I was re-enacting the light from one day’s oil burning for eight days.
It wasn’t a “memory” of a historic tale.
It was a ritual re-enactment of a real miracle.
The ritual took it beyond mere intellectual meaning.
I was beholding a miracle taking place.
I was participating in the miracle.

3. There are a couple of verses in the Gospel of John that refer to Hanukah:
“Then came the Festival of Dedication [i.e. Hanukah] at Jerusalem.
It was winter, and Jesus was in the Temple courts, walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.” [1]

I suggested to a Messianic-Jewish friend of mine that it would make an ideal reading for a Messianic service at some point during Hanukah or for an at-home observance. He pointed out that it’s the only mention of “Hanukah” in Scripture (he, of course, includes the Christian testament as scripture).

4. On Shabbat Miketz (which always falls during Hanukah) this year, I gave a talk about Hanukah in an assisted living facility. I added reference to Alexander and explained who the Seleucid Greeks were. I also mentioned the Ptolemaic Greeks who ruled Egypt — culminating in Cleopatra (who was Greek, not Egyptian).
I also pointed out that although the Maccabees/Hashmoni’im had defeated Greek worship in the Temple, the effect of Greek thought has been a lasting influence in Judaism. I mentioned Philo, Sa’adiah Gaon and the Rambam, of course. But I also posited that the rational inquiry into Torah that characterizes the Talmud seemed far more “Greek” than “Jewish” to me. Nowhere in TaNaCh do you find rational debate about Torah, its meaning or its applications. Jewish “thought” was represented more by the prophets or by others who were inspired by the “Spirit of Holiness” — David, for example.

The response of the attendees was both surprising and not surprising to me. They said that no one had ever discussed the holiday in depth with them when they were growing up.
I answered that perhaps it was a Jewish “assumption” that people would be spending their lives learning whereas in fact, most Jewish “education” stopped at the bar/bat mitzvah. Thus, the deeper discussions were never heard by the larger public.
On the other hand, when I was in my early learning years, there was no hint of a deeper meaning to Hanukah or other aspects of Judaism. I had to find those on my own; even create them, sometimes.


[1] John 10:22-23
“Solomon’s Colonnade” was a walkway on the wall of the outer courtyard of Herod’s Temple. The walkway was covered by a roof that was supported by columns. One side was open, the other was formed by the wall of the Temple courtyard itself.
A similar structure can be seen in the “Hall of Fame” at Bronx Community College (used to be New York University uptown campus) that colonnade is open on both sides, with the roof supported by columns.