I heard bits and pieces of NPR’s annual Hanukkah show, Hanukkah Lights, over the last few days. Twaddle such as this must drive religious Jews to despair. It’s certainly entertaining twaddle, and I confess I look forward to the annual incarnation of the show every December, but entertaining as it might be, its shallow understanding of Jewishness even gives me and my goyish sensibilities pause.
Can the Jews be a people without being a people of God? They can be a culture, they can form a society, and even come together as a nation, but being a people requires an object: A people of God. Jewishness is more than matzos, mothers-in-law, and Yiddish aphorisms, Jewishness begins and ends in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The Festival of Lights is in honor of the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabees defeated the forces of Antiochus Epiphanes. The revolt occurred because the Seleucids desecrated God’s temple.
Odd how Hanukkah (the celebration of post-desecration rededication) itself has now been desecrated by the contemporary secularism and secular Jews who use this once holy season to try to be a people set apart, not from the world around them, but from the living God himself so they can be a people unto themselves.
Of course, in this sense it’s no different than Christmas and Easter in the modern West (for those that weren’t aware of it, those are historically Christian religious festivals). But the desecration of Hanukkah is more poignant because of the sad irony involved.