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
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
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
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
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
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?