Thursday, December 15, 2011


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayeshev

20 Kislev 5772/December 16, 2011

Here it is Americans; the present you’ve all been looking for: “The Hanukkah Tree Topper! Celebrate the warmth and wonder of both Hanukah and X-mas. A must have for interfaith families. Available in silver metallic coated, textured plastic, with a steel coil for easy sturdy mounting.”

A Jewish woman once told me that she and her Catholic husband work very hard during the holiday season so that their children feel privileged that they can celebrate both Hanukkah and X-mas.

The notion of trying to blend two mutually exclusive faiths is itself a tragedy. The very concept of the ‘Holiday Season’, as if insinuating that there is any remote connection between the two holidays, other than the fact that they sometimes overlap, is a sad misunderstanding.

But the fact that this befuddlement of ideals and values occurs with the holiday of Chanukah is a complete distortion of what the holiday is about.

Rambam writes, “The Chanukah candles are exceedingly beloved.” It is an unusual emotional declaration to be found in a treatise dedicated to the bottom line of the law. In fact the Rambam does not express such a strong sentiment in regards to any other seasonal mitzvah.

Chanukah is the result of the efforts of our ancestors who would not compromise on their ideals and fought to keep the Torah in its pristine purity. This was symbolized by their obdurate refusal to use any of the oil that had been (purposely) contaminated by the Syrian-Greeks.

Thus, Chanukah is a victory and holiday of separation. It was a time when our forefather pledged ‘their lives and their sacred honor’ for the right to be different, and not allow calls for equality to contaminate their existence.

Erecting a Hanukkah Bush or placing a Jewish symbol of a tree is analogous to celebrating American Independence Day by hoisting the British Flag above the White House with a little picture of George Washington on top. The whole point of the American Revolution was to sever the ties between the colonists and the English Monarchy.

Trying to merge two disparate entities is not a promotion of peace but a destruction of both entities.

Still we must not become too discouraged with how the holiday is celebrated outside the Torah-observant world. Chanukah is the holiday of light – and that includes the inner light of our souls. Somehow the Chanukah lights beckons even to the most distant Jews and tugs at their heartstrings. They may not even realize it, but somehow those little candles sear through the vapid falsities they have been taught, to keeps a spark of truth glowing within.

“These candles are holy… to praise and express gratitude to Your Great Name.”

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

A happy and lichtig Chanukah,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum