Chanukah O Chanukah…

This year, Chanukah starts on December 24th. The Chanukah story has a lot of elements in common with the founding of the US. And with Star Wars, for that matter.

As with any “plucky little band fights big evil empire and wins” story, the little guy is very little: a ragtag band of Jewish farmers, and the big guy is really big: the Seleucid Empire. (Think of Colonial American farmers versus the British or the “Rebels” versus the “Empire.”) The Empire in this case was trying to force the Jewish farmers to abandon their ancestral traditions, going to far as to desecrate the Temple in Jerusalem by using it to worship Zeus, and slaughter pigs on the altar.

This was huge. It was, for these farmers, a fight for identity: would they remain Jews, with their religion, their traditions, and their right to worship freely, or would they just become part of the larger society, worship Zeus, and forget their traditions?

(And for those scholars out there, yes, it was more complicated than that. It always is!)chanukah-small

Whether you’re religious or not, Jewish or not, a story of little guys fighting for their culture really resonates, at least it does with me. Maybe this is an especially American ideal, but I can sympathize with the desire of any group to keep their traditions and customs, whether I celebrate those traditions or not.  Furthermore, no group should be stigmatized simply for being different from the predominant culture.

This is an especially important idea in a pluralistic society, like the US, where so many people come from so many different places, with their own ideas, religions, traditions, and most important, really good recipes!

And yes, like the Chanukah story, I know it’s more complicated than that. It always is. The details are always difficult.

I have confidence in us, though. The word “Chanukah” means rededication, and refers to the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews recaptured it.

This year, I’m rededicating myself to these ideals, that we can all live side by side, that we can celebrate our traditions, or create new ones, that we can work our way past our disagreements and friction and be the better for it.

Whatever you celebrate, I wish you warmth, joy, and peace!


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