Hanukkah

December 17th, 2009

I’d mentioned that I had a difficult time finding meaning in Hanukkah. Here‘s an excellent article in Slate that looks at the awkward history behind the holiday, and might explain better to folks — Jewish or not — why a modern person might find some of its messages distasteful, and what meaning we can find in it. I love this paragraph:

Here we find the historical miracle that Hanukkah implicitly celebrates: the capacity to sustain intimate relations with another without totally ceding your own sense of self, the ability to love without permanently merging, to be enchanted by the exquisite beauty of another without losing sight of your own charms. This relational art is ritualized on Hanukkah by the lighting of separate wicks or candles that build daily toward a unison of illumination.


4 Responses to “Hanukkah”

  1. Shulamuth on December 17, 2009 6:44 pm

    One of the (many) things I love about Judaism, and the reasons I feel so “at home” in it, is that we are encouraged to interpret and re-interpret Torah and tradition; I like that we continue growing and adding, and that both our selves and the world can be sources of understanding. Also, I grew up with a sense that several different understandings could exist equally — (the classic “but Rabbi, you listened to the disagreement between Yoseph and Moshe and first you said Yoseph was right and then you said Moche was right”/”ah, you’re right, too”.)

    This is not a drash I’d come across before. I’m going to go chew on it for a while, but I kind of like it.

  2. Robin on December 17, 2009 7:08 pm

    Shulamuth, I totally agree, and it is part of why, for me, my love of theater, especially Shakespeare, feels deeply connected to my Judaism. I love having texts that can be examined/interpreted from so many different angles, within a community. Some interpretations are more coherent, more humane, more complex than others, but every interpretation deserves a hearing. And every interpretation makes the tradition richer.

  3. akmom on December 18, 2009 7:52 am

    That paragraph is quite moving. I’m not Jewish, but it makes me want to celebrate Hanukkah! What a beautiful sentiment…

  4. Shulamuth on December 19, 2009 1:23 pm

    Robin, speaking of enriching understanding — I’d never put Judaism together with about what I like about theatre and Shakespeare, but you are spot on.

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