Chanukah is upon us. From a religious standpoint, it is a minor festival, not a major one, but more Jews observe it than, say, observe the major festival of Shavuot.
This is sad on so many levels, but perhaps the saddest is a principal reason for this anomaly: Chanukah, whatever its origins and regardless of its meaning, has been turned into the Jewish Christmas, complete with the exchanging of expensive gifts, colorful home and window decorations, and even giant chanukiot being given equal footing and even pride of place with nativity scenes and Christmas trees.
Chanukah is not Christmas, although had there been no Chanukah, there probably would not have been a Christmas. That is because there probably would not have been a Jewish people by the time the Romans ruled Judea, and therefore there would have been no one from whom Christianity could spring forth.
Chanukah is not about competing with other religions or emulating them. It is about creating an environment in which those other religions could exist and flourish. That is a gift we gave to the world.
When we try to be like “them,” we lose sight of the fact that the only way they could be as they are is because 2,200 years ago, we demanded the right to be as we are.