Hanukkah ended December 28 at sundown, so—you know—I’m writing about it on January 3.
Hanukkah is complex.
A lot more complex than we think. The story of Hanukkah is the story of a miracle, and a military victory in a civil war. It is the story of a holiday postponed, and of the rededication of a holy place.
Maybe it’s because of its history, or maybe because it’s a relatively low-level holiday in the Jewish calendar, but Hanukkah has been subject to more interpretation than pretty much any other Jewish holiday. Hanukkah, it seems, is all things to all people.
So, now the menorahs are put away. The excess candles have been thrown into a drawer. The very notion of food fried in oil nauseates us. Until we start all over again on 25 Kislev next year. Now it’s time to get on with the rest of the year.
But I’m still thinking about it.
Pretty much everything about Hanukkah goes back to the rededication of the Temple. It’s all of everything I said it is, but at the center of it all is that rededication. That cleaning up and search for holiness. There is a lot of talk about using Hanukkah as a chance to rededicate oneself to one’s values. This is a pretty decent idea, I think, and it’s a good time of year for it.
Hanukkah falls near the Winter Solstice—the shortest day of the year and a day when many people, including me, take a look at themselves and think about what needs to change over the next six months, as the world is getting lighter each day and we need those candles less and less.
Hanukkah also falls relatively near New Year’s Day—the biggest day of the year for the business managers of gyms and yoga studios around the world.
But, as with all those gym and yoga studio memberships, it’s too easy to forget about the holiness we might have found. Actually, even the Hasmoneans—the famed Macabees of Hanukkah—forgot about their duty after not too long; in the end, they were best known for their corruption.
Rededication is hard work, and it needs to keep going even after the candles are in the drawer. So I am writing about Hanukkah after Hanukkah as a reminder to myself to keep up with that dedication. I should also probably eat more jelly doughnuts throughout the year.