‘Tis the season of our discontent. Chanukah is upon us, and again we are making the most of its status as the Jewish Christmas.
But it is not the Jewish Christmas. Christmas is a major observance of another religion. Chanukah is a minor observance of ours. Unfortunately for the Christian faiths, the meaning of Christmas has been grossly diminished by the commercialism that has attached. Christmas is less about the birth of a Christian messiah and more about the hot new toys, such as LeapPad 2 Explorer and Wii U for children, and mini iPads, video glasses, and Darth Vader alarm clocks for adults.
Chanukah never was about gifts. “Chanukah gelt” does not mean “Chanukah gift.” It is but a few pennies given to children to play dreidel, so that they can learn what the four letters mean. Nun, gimel, hey, and shin stand for nes gadol hayah sham – a great miracle happened there. In other words, it is meant to spark questions from the children about what was the miracle and why we should care.
While we rush to celebrate this minor holiday, we do so by corrupting its message, thereby losing an opportunity to teach our children the value we Jews place on the concept of freedom. To our children, Chanukah is about getting presents for eight nights, munching on jelly doughnuts (and how many people know why doughnuts ?) and little else.
Chanukah begins a week from Saturday night. Enjoy the festival; we surely intend to. Keep it in perspective, however.