Reposted from 2008
I want to talk about a holiday filled with conflicting emotions.
This is a holiday that remembers our ancestors’ religious persecution.
This is a holiday that commemorates freedom and hope.
Celebration of this holiday involves food, prayer, games, and family gathered.
This holiday requires us to close our eyes, temporarily, to the facts.
This holiday requires us to forget, for the moment, what happened afterward, in the following generations.
We focus on the freedom, the hope, the opportunity, with the albatross of that same opportunity squandered hanging over our heads, but not welcome at the holiday table filled with food, family, and festivities.
I probably should wait to talk about this holiday, since it doesn’t begin for another 3.5 weeks.
Hanuka begins on the evening of December 20 this year.
However, in the year 164 BCE, when Mattathias, his sons, and their followers fought back against religious persecution, the month on the Roman calendar was November. Kislev 25 fell on November 21st, to be exact.
As Rabbi Joseph Telushkin in Jewish Literacy, writes, “One of the sadder ironies of Jewish history is that the Maccabees led a successful revolt against King Antiochus’ anti-semitic oppressors only to turn into oppressors of the Jews themselves. (p. 112)”
On Hanuka we will focus on the freedom, the hope, and the opportunity, just as we as Americans do on Thanksgiving. We need to teach our children what happened next, so they aren’t blind to the forces of history, but that can be done on a different day. It doesn’t need to weigh us down on a holiday meant for celebration.
Related newspaper column: Chanukah's History: Challenging but Full of Meaning