Chanukah - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Chanukah
Friday, 19 December 2003 at 07:00 pm
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I have ideological issues with Chanukah. But this evening, I came home from work, and was so dead tired that I fell straight to sleep (this was the middle of the afternoon!) And I woke up and it was cold and dark, but there was my chanukah present from lethargic_man. All of a sudden, I felt far away from my family and my people, and I had a strong impulse to go out to the corner shop and buy nightlights with which I improvised a chanukah lamp.

Then I sat down and wrote a highly enthusiastic review of The Player of Games.

To those who care about such things, happy chanukah.


Moooood: tiredtired
Tuuuuune: Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine
Discussion: 31 contributions | Contribute something
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redbird: default
From:redbird
Date:December 19th, 2003 07:29 pm (UTC)
23 minutes after journal entry, 02:29 pm (redbird's time)

If you don't mind

(Link)
I'm curious: what are your ideological issues with Chanukah? I can think of two broad categories: either dislike of its being treated as a major holiday, a Christmas substitute, or something about the holiday itself.
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chickenfeet2003: penguin
From:chickenfeet2003
Date:December 19th, 2003 07:31 pm (UTC)
25 minutes after journal entry, 02:31 pm (chickenfeet2003's time)

Re: If you don't mind

(Link)
Its a plot by the Israelis and the Americans to get their hands on even more oil!
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livredor: default
From:livredor
Date:December 19th, 2003 08:08 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 08:08 pm (livredor's time)
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*giggle* Oh, I do like that as an answer!
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livredor: mask
From:livredor
Date:December 19th, 2003 08:07 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 08:07 pm (livredor's time)
(Link)
what are your ideological issues with Chanukah?
As a thoroughly Hellenized Jew and a committed liberal with pacifist tendencies, I feel uncomfortable with celebrating the (rather violent) victory of a fundamentalist movement over their more moderate companions. Even the bowdlerized version I was taught as a kid doesn't strongly appeal; it's hard for me to weigh the bloodshed of the Maccabean uprising against self-determination for the Judea of two millennia ago. And, you know, the whole, let's instigate a victory festival just to show how we're not at all influenced by Greek culture, is a bit contrary, isn't it?

There are certainly aspects to the festival I don't mind; I have no problem with giving presents or eating doughnuts or lighting candles to make the darkness go away. And living at this lattitude, especially when Chanukah actually falls at the winter solstice, I have gained a pretty intense experience of darkness!

dislike of its being treated as a major holiday
It isn't really a major holiday, in this country, and certainly wasn't in my family. The whole having ideological issues thing was thoroughly part of my upbringing!

a Christmas substitute
I don't mind that terribly, actually. As a child I felt terribly special and exotic for being the only one in my class who didn't celebrate Christmas, but I can appreciate that some children are not like me and would rather feel left out. I'd much prefer that their parents make a bigger deal out of chanukah than is really called for, than that they make concessions to Christmas 'for the sake of the kids'. The former strikes me as much more positive; Judaism isn't simply not-Christianity, it's a tradition worth something in its own right.

or something about the holiday itself
I think that would be the one.
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lethargic_man: reflect
From:lethargic_man
Date:December 20th, 2003 05:56 pm (UTC)
22 hours after journal entry, 05:56 pm (lethargic_man's time)

Issues with Chanucah

(Link)
what are your ideological issues with Chanukah?
As a thoroughly Hellenized Jew and a committed liberal with pacifist tendencies, I feel uncomfortable with celebrating the (rather violent) victory of a fundamentalist movement over their more moderate companions.

But that's not what the Maccabees were fighting for at all (regardless of the fact they were fundamentalists by modern standards). חנוכה isn't about fundamentalists fighting liberals; it's about people with integrity standing up to intolerance. Antiochus Epiphanes was a nutcase; he called himself Epiphanes (God Made Manifest) but was known as Epimanes (the mad). He refused to let the Jews practice their religion and insisted on the desecration of their Temple with offerings to foreign gods and sacrifices of pigs.

In this background it's easy to understand how those loyal to Yiddishkeit (to use an anachronism) became fundamentalistic and anti-Hellenist. But Judaism isn't per se anti-Hellenist; when Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire, the Jews welcomed him with open arms. Also, "the Rabbis conceived of beauty under the category of purity, and longed for Japheth, i.e. the beauty of Greece, to dwell in the tents of Shem."*

* Hertz (sorry) p.35, unattributed in detail, I'm afraid.
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hatam_soferet: default
From:hatam_soferet
Date:December 21st, 2003 09:47 am (UTC)
1 days after journal entry

Re: Issues with Chanucah

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That may be the case, but right now you can read any number of modern drashes that talk about how wonderful it is that we've thrown off the nasty Hellenistic culture - there are children's magazines knocking around my own reasonably liberal shul that talk about how great it is to be a Jew and how revolting it is to associate with goyyim, and how it's really disgusting to absorb any elements of goyyishe culture. Here it isn't made to be about fighting intolerance, it's about fighting outside influences, and in that context, I too prefer not to put too much emphasis on celebrating Chanukah. Maybe if the prevailing culture was basically tolerant of outside influence I would be able to appreciate the aspects you mention, but it isn't. This is a time of year to tell small children that the evil Greeks threw small children off the tops of buildings and that all goyyim are nasty. Yeah, great festival.

(although this may merely be symptomatic of Jerusalem as opposed to Jewry as a whole)
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lethargic_man: reflect
From:lethargic_man
Date:December 21st, 2003 05:34 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 05:34 pm (lethargic_man's time)

Re: Issues with Chanucah

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Any religion can be hijacked by fundamentalist tendencies. And in Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, where there's precious little in the way of middle ground between the חרדים and the secular, one can again see why that has happened.

But does the blame for that lie on the religion?

Well yes, partly; the Orthodox liturgy is packed full of expressions such as באיאמ"ה שלא עשני נכרי that are liable to misinterpretation in a racist manner. But equally no, partly; as a close examination of the liturgy and its biblical sources show the whole concept of Jews being the Chosen People to be in order that they be a light unto the nations. The fault is here that of the fundamentalists for engaging in a narrow reading of the texts, and ignoring the bits that don't fit with their worldview.

Yes, I know I'm treading on dangerous ground here. Go ahead; knock me down if you want.
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hatam_soferet: default
From:hatam_soferet
Date:December 21st, 2003 05:50 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry

Re: Issues with Chanucah

(Link)
I don't really want to knock you down, clearly you can argue it six ways till the cows come home - my deal is that you celebrate Chanuka your way and I'll celebrate it my way; my way is appropriate for me in today's Jerusalem, and your way presumably works for you.
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livredor: mask
From:livredor
Date:December 21st, 2003 09:40 pm (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 09:40 pm (livredor's time)

(Link)
how great it is to be a Jew and how revolting it is to associate with goyyim, and how it's really disgusting to absorb any elements of goyyishe culture
Ach, my poor badger! I'm so sorry you're getting this kind of crap. I can very vividly remember how absolutely sickened I was the first time I heard 'goyim' used in a derogatory sense, and it doesn't get much easier with familiarity. There are many things I love about Judaism, but just occasionally certain sections of the community make me deeply, deeply ashamed.

Whether refusing to celebrate chanukah is the answer, I honestly can't say (despite my flippant remarks above; many apologies if I touched a raw nerve). I can definitely see the point that in the far from ideal context where you find yourself, it's probably the most appropriate response.

I must admit that I really admired that single light thing you did at Hengrave a couple of years back; making a point of doing the absolute bare letter of the law minimum is an extremely stylish approach. Not that I'd ever expect anything less of you.
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Of token rebellions in religion - lethargic_man (12/21/03 10:11 pm)
Re: Of token rebellions in religion - rysmiel (12/22/03 08:35 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (1/3/04 12:42 pm)
Re: Of token rebellions in religion - lethargic_man (10/13/05 07:49 pm)
(no subject) - hatam_soferet (12/22/03 06:38 am)
(no subject) - livredor (1/3/04 12:53 pm)
(no subject) - hatam_soferet (1/4/04 02:14 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (1/4/04 02:46 pm)
(no subject) - hatam_soferet (1/4/04 03:24 pm)
(no subject) - neonchameleon (12/22/03 11:25 am)
(no subject) - livredor (1/3/04 01:01 pm)
(no subject) - neonchameleon (1/5/04 05:32 pm)
lethargic_man: default
From:lethargic_man
Date:December 20th, 2003 06:19 pm (UTC)
23 hours after journal entry, 06:19 pm (lethargic_man's time)

Attitudes to Chanukah

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And, you know, the whole, let's instigate a victory festival just to show how we're not at all influenced by Greek culture, is a bit contrary, isn't it? [...] There are certainly aspects to the festival I don't mind; I have no problem with giving presents

Of course, the custom of giving presents at huile-tide (<ducks>) was taken from the Christians, and the Maccabees would have called it Greek and foreign.

Not that I personally have any problem with being given presents. ;^)
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hatam_soferet: default
From:hatam_soferet
Date:December 22nd, 2003 06:44 am (UTC)
2 days after journal entry

Re: Attitudes to Chanukah

(Link)
Well, everyone knows that giving presents this time of year is participation in the festival of worship to the god of money, don't they? Praise ye the god of gold, and all that.
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rysmiel: bloody theodicy again
From:rysmiel
Date:December 22nd, 2003 08:32 pm (UTC)
3 days after journal entry, 04:32 pm (rysmiel's time)

Re: Attitudes to Chanukah

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I like womzilla's distinction between the religious festival, be it Chanukah or Christmas, and the secular give-people-gifts occasion, which he refers to as Santanalia.
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(no subject) - livredor (1/3/04 01:25 pm)
livredor: teeeeeeeeea (thanks to darcydodo)
From:livredor
Date:January 3rd, 2004 01:22 pm (UTC)
14 days after journal entry, 01:22 pm (livredor's time)
(Link)
giving presents this time of year is participation in the festival of worship to the god of money
Ooh, aren't we cynical! But you do have a good point. I generally don't bother with festive present exchanging; doughnuts for people at work, and sweeties for the cheder kids is about my limit.

Praise ye the god of gold, and all that
Oh, I remember when you did those 'god of gold' Christmas cards, they were very stylish as well!
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livredor: hands
From:livredor
Date:January 3rd, 2004 01:17 pm (UTC)
14 days after journal entry, 01:17 pm (livredor's time)

(Link)
the custom of giving presents at huile-tide ()
Now that really is dreadful. But anyway, moving on...

was taken from the Christians, and the Maccabees would have called it Greek and foreign
Yes, true, but as I was pointing out the custom of instigating national festivals to celebrate military victories is definitely Greek and foreign. The whole existence of Chanukah contradicts itself.

Not that I personally have any problem with being given presents. ;^)
Do you have any idea how difficult you are to buy presents for? You don't get excited about any kinds of luxury foods, you don't like stuff because you keep your life uncluttered, you dress mostly in a functional way so I can't give you dress-type ornaments... So what does that leave? Bookies, I suppose, but you're very sensible about simply buying for yourself any books you happen to want.

In such restricted circumstances I can only do my best, but it's not a very good best.
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lethargic_man: default
From:lethargic_man
Date:January 9th, 2004 09:37 am (UTC)
20 days after journal entry, 09:37 am (lethargic_man's time)

Chanukah

(Link)
the custom of giving presents at huile-tide () was taken from the Christians, and the Maccabees would have called it Greek and foreign

Yes, true, but as I was pointing out the custom of instigating national festivals to celebrate military victories is definitely Greek and foreign.

Is it? What about Purim? I wonder when the earliest mention of Purim outside the (dubiously-dated) Book of Esther is.

Not that I personally have any problem with being given presents. ;^)

Do you have any idea how difficult you are to buy presents for? You don't get excited about any kinds of luxury foods, you don't like stuff because you keep your life uncluttered, you dress mostly in a functional way so I can't give you dress-type ornaments... So what does that leave? Bookies, I suppose, but you're very sensible about simply buying for yourself any books you happen to want.
In such restricted circumstances I can only do my best, but it's not a very good best.

Sorry; I had no idea I was so contrary. Can I ask for examples of my not getting excited about any kinds of luxury foods? As for "stuff", though I'll mostly turn it down as kipple left to my own devices, I'm not completely averse to getting cool stuff. I'd have been happy getting the Chanukah present I got you, or the puzzle ring Sarah got Maria. As for clothing, again I suppose I'm not averse to coolness (though that doesn't mean fashionable clothing). You've seen my Prisoner T-shirt, and I'm currently wearing a Miskatonic University sweatshirt. And I've told you about how Paul bribed me into getting a new suit for his wedding (the old one was perfectly serviceable, but I'd been wearing it in the photos from the previous family שמחה) by getting me a Roadrunner tie.
(Reply to this comment) (Up thread) (Parent) (Thread)
(no subject) - livredor (1/14/04 10:02 pm)
Of dilemmas over present-giving - lethargic_man (1/21/04 11:34 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (1/31/04 06:22 pm)



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