I have been struggling with the darkness for awhile now. Most days I win, but some days, well, it’s not so clear. I’m having some niggling health issues, it’s December, it’s been dark and rainy and gray. I’m a beach gal, you may remember. I thrive on sunshine and heat. I was going to sit down this morning and write from Kohelet (Ecclesiastes). I know – traditionally Kohelet is read on Sukkot, not Chanukah. But I have been feeling the “vanity of vanities, What profit has man in all his toil that he toils under the sun?” Chanukah is also known as the Festival of Lights. I need some light to get me through the next few weeks as the daylight continues to shrink. If I post this today, only 18 more days until it turns around and the days begin to get longer. Sunlight!!!!!
Chanukah is a very interesting holiday. Most people think of it as the triumph of the Maccabees over the Syrian empire. The Jews against the bad guys. (Hey, they won – they got to write the story.) Most people don’t realize that it was a Jewish civil war. It wasn’t all that pretty. It was the fundamentalists against the immersionists. Do you know that Judah Maccabee signed a treaty with Rome? Oh yeah, it’s true. It probably seemed like a good idea to Judah, but it wasn’t necessarily the smartest thing to do. That treaty was one of Rome’s little tricks – gave all the advantages to Rome and very few to the other side. Let me know if you want to hear more – I did a lot of independent research and study on this back in the day. *grin* Aside to Faust – that’s when I WAS living up to the very high standards of your department chair. *grin*
Anyway, Chanukah has never been one of my favorite holidays. I have always figured that here in the USA we have tried to turn it into a Jewish Christmas, devoid of anything but greed. Most people don’t understand that it was not just a triumph over external enemies but also a slaughter of brothers. I also wonder on which side I’d have found myself. So in my house, I’ve downplayed the holiday as far as presents. It is, of course, a time for family and lighting the Chanukiah and eating potato latkes (oy, the calories). /me smiles. Okay, I confess: when my son was little, I used to put up Chanukah lights (dreidels and Jewish stars) and string blue and white paper chains across the doorways.
So I was here this morning, not feeling all that well, contemplating doing more weather-proofing, drinking my coffee, going through my reader feeds. Lo and behold, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic cheered me up with his post. I’ve just discovered Goldberg from following the TSA mishegas. He posted what he calls the best Chanukah song ever. I’m not sure that I’d go that far, but I really enjoyed it and it made me smile and feel light-hearted. I read the comments on his original post. Sheesh. That is the kind of thing I’m avoiding these days – the nit-picking and looking at everything negatively. Who CARES why Orrin Hatch wrote the song. Just enjoy it, okay? Sit back, look at the smiling faces, take it at surface value and smile. As Goldberg describes the recording of the song: a Mormon senator in a studio with an Arab singer and a bunch of New York Jewish background vocalists recording a Hanukkah song of his (Hatch’s) own making.
Happy Chanukah! Let the shine in!