Chanukah Night 6
Buildings in NYC put up perfunctory holiday displays. It is mandatory that every building sacrifices a tree and has some ugly electric menorah. This way we all know every time we walk into or out of a building that it’s time to go shopping.
I find it offensive.
In my building, several years ago they decided that the menorah and the tree needed to put up on the same day and taken down on the same day in some misguided politically correct statement of equality between Christmas and Chanukah.
It was two weeks after Chanukah was over and everytime i walked into my home I got madder and madder seeing the lit menorah until finally I commented to some other jews from the building and they were mad too. What?! The menorah has to be up for the same amount of time as the Christmas tree? Why? Is the menorah a symbol of Christmas? That’s not its job.
My complaints were not taken seriously as several years earlier, when i found out the tree and menorah was going up no matter what. Seeing as the building administration didn’t really care about either one – it was just a job, I recommended they put a Star of David on the top of the tree for a ‘topper’. They didn’t think i was serious, but then i found an electric Star of David tree topper that flashed and twirled like an old gas station sign. I bought it and asked them to put it on top of the tree. They didn’t. I don’t know what happened to it (though I asked).
Those of you that know me know that I am an educated and very observant jew. I observe every jewish holiday and make sure I blashpheme it. But somehow I find it offensive when these symbols are treated in an uncaring and industrial manner. If you’re going to commit blasphemy then OWN It!
Chanukah has nothing to do with Christmas (except in Macy’s and Bloomingdales). Unlike Christmas It’s actually a minor holiday that celebrates the miracle of an accounting error by a syngogue full of Jews. Several millenia ago the Maccabees, a group of jewish warriors (though they sound Irish) was being held in a seige in a temple. Temples have an oil operated “eternal light” hanging over the alter. It’s kind of like a neon “OPEN” sign, I suppose. These warriors decided amongst the group of them there was only enough oil to burn for 1 day. But it burned for 8. Obviously warriors are not good accountants. It’s also the lesson I take away from Chanukah: When a group of people unanimously agree, they are most likely wrong. We see this in the real world almost daily.
Menorahs have specific rules. You light the center candle first then the candle on the rightmost side on the first night while saying a baroucha (prayer). This is repeated each night for 8 nights, lighting an additional candle from right to left (Hebrew) until you’ve lit the whole menorah on the 8th night. That’s the last night, then the holiday is over and you put the damn thing away until next year.
Now it’s years later. I haven’t owned a menorah, nor have I celebrated Chanukah in decades. I get annoyed at the secular use of a symbol used to create some equality that does not exist between Christmas and Chanukah.
For the last few nights i’ve come home, after dark, with the menorah having last nights lights lit. It’s an absolute indication that nobody cares. Not the Irish Super. Not the Haitian doorman, Not the Buddhist mailman, Not any of the Jewish residents. The menorah is a symbol of apathy and for non-jews a symbol of Christmas.
I find myself checking my phone each night, sure enough the next light needs to be lit and in spite of my personal rituals, beliefs and traditions, I light the appropriate light.
Tonight upon arriving home there were 4 lights lit (the middle one doesn’t count – it’s always lit). A quick check of the internet confirmed that it was the 5th night of Chanukah. I walked up to the menorah and lit the 5th light. As I did it the prayer played in my head faster than I could possibly say it.
Barouch Atah Adonoy Elohaynou Melach cholam a sher kiddishanu bemitzvo tov vitzivanuh la hadlich neir shel Chanukah.
I laughed. Who would believe this story? I don’t even believe this story.
Of course you’re supposed to say the prayer BEFORE lighting the menorah, but I didn’t say the prayer, my brain did. And it was already lit i just had to turn on one more light.
This must be a manifestation of OCD. I will try to resist the urge to go around the city fixing menorah’s.