Chanukkah: Why It’s so Important Right Now
While the first night’s candles are burning, while my stomach is still churning from the first oily batch of potato latkes, and while my hair still smells of smoke from the outdoor marshmallow roasting fire pit, I’ve got to write this down.
No doubt, these are dark times. In every sense of the word. Why are the terrorists carrying out their worst attacks on Western civilization as we slip into winter, our shadows growing ever shorter in the setting afternoon sun? Why are they looking to cast us into the darkness of fear during this time of year which should be, for millions around the world, a time of joy and happiness?
Two weeks after the Paris terror attacks, rumours in the City of Lights began to spread that authorities would call off any public open-air menorah lightings for fear of further attacks. Such an action would send a clear message to the terrorists: they won.
Instead, the opposite happened. Tonight, at the base of the Eiffel Tower, 6,000 gathered to spread light in the darkness and celebrate Chanukkah on this the first night.
And tonight, my family and I went to our first #MenorahintheD, a similar outdoor, out in the public celebration in Detroit. It was a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at Campus Martius Park (for the NYC-centric reader, this is Detroit’s version of Rockefeller Center). Outside, next to the big Christmas tree and ice skating rink, the local Chabad rabbi lit an enormous menorah from atop a cherry picker. Inside, in a heated tent, celebrants of all shapes sizes faiths and colors ate, drank and listened to a Klezmer band and even slid across a zip line!
Chanukkah is not the biggest or most significant holiday on the Jewish calendar. But this year, we’ve got to make a big deal about it. We have to eat the latkes and sufganiyot, those special jelly-filled doughnuts, with gusto and relish! Let the dreidels spin and those candles burn.
The holiday that celebrates history’s first battle for religious freedom is not – nor should it ever be about- competing with Christmas.
It’s not about presents or the number of Chanukkah songs there are compared with Christmas songs, or how a humble nine-branched candelabra can compete with a freshly pine-scented ornament adorned Christmas tree.
Chanukkah is saying we do not give into tyranny. In any generation.
We know who we are. We know where we came from. We know our values and traditions and know how hard and long our people, though small in number, have endured many tyrannies to hang onto them.
We know there are dark forces out there who want to take everything that we stand for away, but we are taking a stand and we are not going anywhere.
Chanukkah is about publicly saying, “I am a Jew” and we will not go into hiding. No threats of terror will make us waver from that proclamation. It is about taking the lights of Chanukkah into our hearts and figuring out what good we can bring into the world, which is the best act of vengeance we can bring upon the likes of ISIS, Hamas or Al Queda.
This Chanukkah, don’t let the light shrink into the shadows of terror. Celebrate to the fullest.