MIAMI. Tough times fade. Tough people last. For eight nights starting Sunday night, the pain of the world is pushed to the side. Hanukkah. The Festival of Lights. Pleasure reigns supreme.
Jewish pride is ready to burst on the scene from Jerusalem to Brooklyn and everywhere a single Hebrew lives. Blue and white stars will form a larger Star of David in the sky. All over the world the songs and dances of joy will be expressed by the People of the Book.
The song of all songs will kick off the festivities.
“Hanukkah oh Hanukkah, come light the Menorah…
“Hanukkah oh Hanukkah, we’ll all dance the Horah…
“Gather around the table, we’ll give you a treat…
“Lots of tasty chocolates and latkes (potato pancakes) to eat…
“Hanukkah oh Hanukkah, come light the Menorah…”
Festival of Lights. And football.
The Festival of Lights is also upon us. The celebration of the Maccabees this year lives from sundown today, Sunday, until sundown on December 10, 2018. For Jewish football fans, there is a double bonus. The National Football League begins and ends the holiday since the first and last nights of Hanukkah are bookended by major football games.
For everyone else connected to the Jewish faith, there is more than enough revelry to go around during Hanukkah.
Hanukkah, “Thanksgivingukkah” and other variations on a familiar theme
Happy Chaka Khan! Time to break out the dreidels (spinning tops) and spin them faster than a politician on a talk show.
Every year brings something different. 2013 brought “Thanksgivingukkah,” as Hanukkah began before Thanksgiving for the first time since 1888. This convergence between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will not occur again for almost another 78,000 years. 2016 celebrated Hanukkah as late as possible, stretching into the new year.
For the linguistically challenged, both spellings of the holiday have eight letters. Adding a “C” requires subtracting a “K.” It is Chanukah or Hanukkah.
Dispelling Hanukkah myths
Regarding the holiday itself, some myths need to be dispelled. People hear that the Jewish fighters only had enough oil for one day, and miracle of miracles, the oil magically lasted for eight days. This is the warm, fuzzy, sanitized story told to children.
Hanukkah in actuality is the Jewish version of Independence Day, July 4. Hanukkah is a neocon holiday. The Jews battled some Greeks and crushed them.
Jewish comedians play on stereotypes of angst-ridden and guilt-ridden Jews fearing their own shadows. Most Jews historically were actually not weak, sniveling crybabies begging our enemies to like us. This battered housewife syndrome characterized by blaming the victim, is a relatively new, unpleasant phenomenon.
Real Jewish history has revolved around military strength.
In our own time, the second coming of Judah Maccabee is Paul Wolfowitz. However, the word Maccabee means “hammer.” So perhaps the second coming was actually the late Dr. Charles Krauthammer.
The lessons of Hanukkah applied perfectly to the Iraq War. If the world had any common sense, the Maccabee method of problem-solving would have been applied to the mullahs in Iran and Bashar Assad in Syria before it was too late. Waterboarding ISIS fighters would not have been a moral concern for the Maccabees. Those Jews fought wars to win them.
Winning wars is why Jews still exist. For those troubled by this: Deal with it.
In truth, the actual celebration of Hanukkah is a tad bittersweet for those who are educated about this holiday. Jews won on the battlefield but lost that war.
The Greek way and the Jewish way
There was a major difference between how Jews and Greeks celebrated holidays. Greeks celebrated holidays created in the wake of military victories. Jewish tradition eschewed this practice of glorifying blood triumphs.
The Greeks ordered Jews to assimilate or be killed. Jews fought for the right to remain independently Jewish without forced assimilation into Greek culture. After Judah Macabee and his brothers helped the Israelites crush the Greeks in battle, the first thing the Maccabees did was hoist a victory flag and declare this military victory a Jewish holiday.
But after fighting for the right to prevent assimilation, Jews adopted a Greek tradition anyway. Assimilation is still deadly to Judaism. Some would argue that what Hitler failed to do to the Jews, Jews do internally through a 52 percent intermarriage rate.
Hannukah: The Festival of Lights is party time in more ways than one
Hanukkah is actually the least important holiday in the Jewish calendar. The Festival of Lights is an excuse to party.
Returning to the neocon aspect of this holiday, Hanukkah is a political holiday. This is a fact that the 70 to 80 percent of Jews desperate to sing Kumbaya with those who hate our guts would do well to heed.
Hanukkah’s lesson is simple: Force works. There is no dialogue or negotiation with those refusing to recognize your right to exist. Survival is not pretty. It often involves spilling large amounts of blood. Collateral damage is unfortunate, but must not serve as a deterrent.
Jews, mercy and morality
The other Maccabean Era lesson is mercy. Jews did not rape Greek women, chop heads and limbs off, enslave anyone or indiscriminately engage in deliberate cruelty. We Jews defended ourselves. In keeping with values that unite Jews and Americans to this day, both remain good people using power for noble purposes. America, through economic and military power, and Jews through their sense of justice, help feed, clothe, protect and defend others worldwide, many of whom are neither Jewish nor American.
Perhaps that’s because internally, in addition to the intermarriage rate, Jews are secular in alarming numbers. Far too many atheists and agnostics abandon their Jewish identity.
Religious Jews are fruitful and multiply
The only good news is that the majority of Jews having children are religious. Secular Jews fight for abortions, gay marriages and other practices that prevent breeding. Religious Jews breed as much as possible. A century from now, the Jewish community could very well be more religious, possessing a far stronger sense of Jewish identity and pride. A couple of centuries ago, all Jews were Orthodox. Perhaps this era, too, will experience a Second Coming.
As for me, as candles are lit, hope springs eternal that a certain young Republican Jewish brunette shows up at my door wearing only strategically placed Hanukkah bows. Indeed, there is much joy to look forward to over the next eight nights.
Happy Hanukkah everybody! Shalom!
— Headline image: A nine-candle Macedonian Hanukkah menorah.
(Image via Wikipedia entry on Hanukkah menorah, CC 3.0 license)