A Joyous Holiday Noise

Published December 23, 2005, issue of December 23, 2005.
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Hanukkah seems almost anticlimactic this year. There’s been so much talk in recent weeks about the blurring of holiday messages and the proper place of religion in the public square that making a joyous holiday noise right now seems, well, a bit rude. Now isn’t the time to make trouble.

In a way, though, that’s just the point of Hanukkah. The holiday celebrates a famous refusal to go along and stay out of trouble. When the Maccabees raised the banner of Judean revolt against the Syrian-Greek overlords and their Hellenizing Jewish collaborators, they knew they were making life uncomfortable for the majority of their countrymen. Most of their fellow Jews might have preferred to let the mad emperor Antiochus IV rage on for a few years, knowing that his time would pass and that life in Judea would some day return to normal. The Maccabees believed the price to be paid while waiting was unacceptably high, and so they fought.

Readers will see an obvious parallel between those times and these. We can think of a few parallels ourselves — cutting in as many directions as Jews have opinions. The common denominator, and the most important, is this: Hanukkah is, above all, a time to celebrate who we are, and to insist on our right to be ourselves.

In that holiday spirit, we wish our readers, depending on their leanings, a very happy Hanukkah, a joyous holiday season and, to those who prefer, a merry Christmas.

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