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Interesting op-ed by David Brooks in the New York Times about the real story of Chanukah and the difficult questions that it raises:

Generations of Sunday school teachers have turned Hanukkah into the story of unified Jewish bravery against an anti-Semitic Hellenic empire. Settlers in the West Bank tell it as a story of how the Jewish hard-core defeated the corrupt, assimilated Jewish masses. Rabbis later added the lamp miracle to give God at least a bit part in the proceedings.

But there is no erasing the complex ironies of the events, the way progress, heroism and brutality weave through all sides. The Maccabees heroically preserved the Jewish faith. But there is no honest way to tell their story as a self-congratulatory morality tale. The lesson of Hanukkah is that even the struggles that saved a people are dappled with tragic irony, complexity and unattractive choices. 

(Hat tip: Lesley).

It is certainly true that there are a number of ways to interpret the story of Chanukah. It can be read as a tale of the triumph of religious extremism over secularism. It can be read as an anti-assimilationist tale. It can be viewed as an anti-imperialist struggle, or as a divisive civil war.

All of this tends to get lost in the shuffle among most people who simply view Chanukah as the “festival of lights”, a generic, commercialized Jewish version of the equally-commercialized Christmas, a simple excuse for retailers to make money. A view would have likely incensed the anti-assimilationist Maccabees to no end.

Sure, at its core, Chanukah is just another one of those “they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat” holidays that fill the Jewish calendar. And there’s nothing wrong with a little celebration. But it’s important to know what, and why, we’re celebrating.

Happy Chanukah, all!


Happy Chanukah


Check out this great virtual menorah, created by Michael Scherotter. It updates automatically at 6pm each day until all the candles are lit.

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Happy Chanukah


Chag sameach… enjoy the latkes, and hope the heartburn isn’t too bad!

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The requisite Christmas tree rant


Since this story about a Chabad Rabbi who threatened to sue the Seattle-Tacoma airport unless they took down their Christmas trees has been getting so much media attention, I figure I’d better weigh in with my two cents. My opinion? Quite simply, Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky is a first-degree horse’s ass. Why? Displaying a Christmas tree […]

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Happy Chanukah


Or, should I say, happy heartburn-holiday. Meryl has a virtual menorah. So I give you virtual latkes. Made by my mom. They taste even better than they look. And Merry Christmas to all my Christian readers.

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Season’s Greetings


I need to rant. (It’s great having a blog for times like these…) This whole debate about the Christmas/Holidays terminology has gotten way out of hand. We in North America live in a place where the majority of people are some sort of denomination of Christian. But that’s not why Christmas is so predominant everywhere. […]

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Happy Chanukah


Tonight was the first candle of Chanukah. It may not be that big a deal, and it certainly gets ridiculously commercialized and blown out of proportion because of its proximity to Christmas. But I still like Chanukah. Eight days of yummy unhealthy greasy food and presents… what could be bad? I won’t wax poetic about […]

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Winter’s here


It’s beginning to look a lot like… Chanukah!

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Seventh candle for Concordia Hillel


International Hillel lights seventh candle in support of Concordia Hillel. On the international website for Hillel, a call went out yesterday to stand in solidarity with Concordia Hillel. While we were in the Hall building lighting our menorah, Hillel chapters around the world were lighting theirs as a sign of support. Hillel: The Foundation for […]

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Concordia Chanukah Rally


And now, to write about what happened tonight at Concordia: I arrived at about a quarter to five, unsure what to expect in terms of turnout – after all, this event had been organized less than 24 hours in advance, and students are in the middle of final exams. No sooner did I get there […]

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