Project Genesis

The Calendar and Holidays (incl. Sabbath)


Commercializing Chanukah

Question: Is Hanukkah considered a significant and important Jewish holiday or is it recently commercialized to compete with Christmas?

Answer: Your question highlights a very important point. To be short, Hannukah is an extremely important Jewish holiday. The messages inherent in the holiday are as important, if not more important, 2200 years ago during the time of the Maccabees, as they are today. The holiday celebrates the uniqueness and significance of the Jewish experience and the wisdom of the Torah (Bible) as the word of God as opposed to all other wisdoms.

How sadly ironic, and unfortunate really, that Hannukah is perceived as a poor man’s Christmas. Feeling that we need to keep up Christmas, we Jews have sought to define Hannukah in terms of Christmas. “One day of presents, we have eight days of presents. Lights? We have lights also.” While there is nothing wrong with giving presents, presents are not an inherent feature of Hannukah. And while we certainly light candles, the significance of the Hannukah lights is lost contrasting them to Christmas lawn displays.

So, Hannukah has become commercialized, but if we can reclaim the true message and significance of Hannukah, it becomes a hugely important holiday. The miracle of the oil points to God’s love and devotion for us; for even in the darkness of night and exile, He provides light for us which can endure and sustain us for as long as necessary. The victory over the Greeks was not merely a military victory, but a triumph of the unique and special nature of Judaism over the “melting pot” Judaism preached by Hellenism; the validation of the singular nature of the Torah as a way of life and not merely a subject studied in school. Therefore, our quest to synthesize Hannukah and Christmas is not only misguided, but undermines the very meaning of Hannukah. I hope this answers your question; if you have any further questions, please feel free to respond.

Be well,
Rabbi Yoel Spotts

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