December 15, 2003

Hanukkah Is Coming!
"Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may 
live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving 
you" (Devarim / Deuteronomy 16:20).

The popular Jewish holiday Hanukkah begins this year 
the evening of Friday, December 19 and lasts until 
sundown, December 27. It is a time for family and 
community get togethers, singing, playing games, 
decorating, and eating special foods and treats. When 
I was young the elders gave gifts of money to the 
children, but these days gift giving one to another is 
common.

What we might call the trademark of Hanukkah is the 
lighting of a special candlestick called a hanukiah. 
On the first evening the family gathers around the 
hanukiah, sings traditional prayers and lights a 
candle. Each evening an additional candle is lit 
until, on the final evening, all eight candles are 
lit.

Like many special occasions, Hanukkah requires 
preparation. Just this morning I realized that if I 
didn't get my Hanukkah supplies soon, it may be too 
late. Instead of taking a chance and waiting, I 
decided to act immediately.

Where I live, we have a supermarket that has the 
biggest Jewish section I have ever seen. It's a 
regular well-known supermarket, but this particular 
location has an enormous section of Jewish and kosher 
items. I bought a couple of boxes of candles. Why two 
boxes? You never know. Some bags of chocolate money – 
very traditional…well sort of. It's reminiscent of the 
days we used to get real money. Please don’t tell my 
children I bought the chocolate money – it's supposed 
to be a surprise. Every year it's a surprise. I also 
bought a dreidle – that's a spinning top, played with 
at this time. I am sure we have several at home, but I 
bought this one just in case we can't find them.This 
was a big wooden one that I really liked. They also 
had some nice Hanukkah gift wrap. That's better than 
the usual generic seasonal wrap we get.

I left the store feeling relieved. There is nothing 
worse than it being the day before Hanukkah and 
suddenly realizing that we don't have candles. That's 
probably why I bought two boxes. So what if my anxiety 
drives me to buy two boxes every year! At least we 
have candles.

But Hanukkah is more than the festivities. Hanukkah is 
a time to remember a crucial time in the history of 
our people. Hanukkah is the commemoration of yet 
another time in Jewish history, when our enemies 
attempted to destroy us. This time it was through the 
pressure of assimilation. The emperor believed that 
the way to consolidate his rule over the various 
people of his domain was to impose his culture on 
them.

This was something that many Jewish people were more 
than happy to go along with. But if this plan would 
have succeeded, the Jewish people – the ones God had 
chosen through whom to bring the Messiah into the 
world – would no longer exist. No Jewish people means 
no Messiah. We won't get into the implications for 
that other popular winter holiday here.

It took a heroic stand on the part of certain Jewish 
leaders to resist this evil plan. It was their cry of 
"enough is enough" and their willingness to die if 
necessary that eventually resulted in the release of 
the people from the pressure of the assimilation 
forces.

As we prepare for Hanukkah, we need to open our eyes 
to see that we live in a day not too different from 
that of the first Hanukkah. We are under constant 
pressure to conform to the evil decadence being 
imposed upon us at every turn. The pressure to go 
along with the prevailing culture is often crushing. 
Huge marketing machines are aimed at our young people, 
who in turn insist that their families and 
institutions must conform to their wishes.

Parents intimidated by their children or believing 
that the culture of youth is superior to their own 
give in to this pressure. Our society is being dragged 
along by those who only god is money. Can we not see 
what is happening?

When will we learn the lesson of Hanukkah and say, 
"Enough is enough!", no longer allowing our lives to 
be controlled by the selfish forces of greed, 
materialism, and pleasure. What are we waiting for?