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Genghis Bob
12-09-2004, 08:08 AM
Let me explain. First of all, I'm Lutheran. I live in an area with a large Jewish population, many Orthodox. They had a "Menorah parade" on the main drag sometime this week, where folks attached really big Menorah to the roofs of their cars and drove around, as a means of raising the profile of the tradition.

Anyway, I was walking into the local bookstore last night. Outside the door were two teenagers in black cloth coats and wide-brimmed black hats - Orthodox Jews. As I was going in, one of them wished me a happy Hanukah. I smiled and wished him the same. Then he asked me if I had a Menorah. I chuckled, said that I didn't, and went in the store.

When I came out, I wished him a good evening and went on my way.

Then I got to thinking: why did the kid ask me if I had a Menorah? I certainly don't dress like he was, but I suppose he could have mistaken me for a secular Jew since I returned his Happy Hanakuh greeting. Or is the Menorah something that a non-Jew could have without being disrespectful? I've never considered having one, being Christian and all, but if it's not considered disrespectful, I think it might be cool to learn about the significance of it, and have one.

If I'd been quicker-witted, I would have asked the kid these questions, but I'm not, so I didn't.

HeyHomie
12-09-2004, 09:42 AM
Around here, there are a few houses with both Christmas trees and menorahs. My thinking is, if a Christian family displays a menorah, it's a sign of respect for those in the community who celebrate that other religious winter holiday. Kind of like a symbol of solidarity, or something.

Since I'm not a Jew, I won't deign to say whether or not this is offensive.

Jonathan Chance
12-09-2004, 10:42 AM
It wouldn't offend me (I'm a jew). I might find it silly or not worthy of note but it wouldn't offend me.

OK, suddenly I take that back. The local Unitarian Universalist church (it a VERY church-going town) has on their signboard out front "Chanukah celebration tonight!' and I actually laughed when I saw it. Nice to know they're reaching out.

zev_steinhardt
12-09-2004, 10:44 AM
There's no reason to have a menorah. Be proud of your religion and celebrate it's traditions. You don't have to go searching elsewhere. :)

Zev Steinhardt

Rufus Xavier
12-09-2004, 10:52 AM
There's no reason why a non-Jew having a menorah would be considered disrespectful, unless, of course, they were using or displaying it in a disrespectful manner.

Some menorahs could be considered works of art, and are intended for display rather than ritual use. I like the one my 4 girl made in preschool out of wood, glue, metal nuts and lots of glitter. Sparkly!

jgroub
12-09-2004, 11:02 AM
OK, this same thing happened to me a few years ago, just before Chanuka, but with a twist. Here's the story - I live in Manhattan, and I'm Jewish by birth and upbringing (although I am a non-believer now). I am married to a Catholic.

Anyway, on a street corner near where I work, there were these Hasidic kids walking up to men and asking "Excuse me Sir, are you Jewish?" If yes, they would talk to them for a minute, and try to give them a free Menorah, free candles, and a free dreydel.

They were kids from the Lubavitchers (sp?), an ultra-orthodox sect here in NYC. (If I am being offensive in my description, I apologize in advance.) They have something called a "Mitzvah tank" (Mitzvah means alternatively, good deed, or performing a commandment in the Bible, IIRC), which is this big decked out Winnebago that they drive around the City, passing out literature and stuff.

Even though I'm a non-believer, I want the free goods, because my little girl had just turned 1, and I figure, she should know a little about her heritage. And, as long as we have a tree, WTH, we should have a menorah, too.

So, I walk past them. They ignore me. I walk past again. They ignore me again. I walk past a third time, slowly, and look them in the eye. Finally they ask me! What, I don't look Jewish or something? I don't walk Jewish? I was half-offended (not really - I just think it's funny).



As for the OP, the kid asked you if you had a menorah because he thought you were Jewish (probably, just as you surmised, because you said Happy Chanuka back to him) and he wanted to make sure you celebrated it.

Although I completely defer to Zev, cmkeller, and others (who have helped me out with my Jewish questions - thanks guys!), I personally would not be offended. One of the symbolic ideas of the menorah is to shed light to dispell darkness, in an increasing knowledge sort of way. If you ask me, that is exactly what the SDMB is all about.

Gary Robson
12-09-2004, 11:26 AM
You might want to take a look at the book, The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate (http://www.spaghettibookclub.org/review.php3?review_id=2011). It's a great (true) story of a Jewish family in Billings, Montana that had a menorah in their window. A (probably anti-Semitic) vandal threw a rock through the window. As word spread, other families began putting menorahs in their windows. The local newspaper printed a picture of a menorah, and people who didn't have real menorahs cut them out and put them in their windows.

It's a great children's book. If you can't find it at your local bookstore, they shouldn't have any trouble ordering it. All the big distributors carry it.

Abbie Carmichael
12-09-2004, 12:25 PM
No Menorah here but my kid has 2 dreidels.

We're Christians, but AFAIC I don't see why it would be a big deal to celebrate Hanukkah (we don't).

Zsofia
12-09-2004, 12:25 PM
When I was in the SCA in college, I sang in the local Barony's Chorusters group. We met at the house of a sweet, cool Jewish guy, who had a grade school aged son (which seems to mean you acquire a crapload of neat menorahs.) We met on Tuesdays, so that night of Hannukah every year we all got a menorah to light of our very own. (We always fought over the Menorahsaurus.) It brings a smile to my face to think of it - what a wonderful way to share one's faith and culture. It's really a good memory.

633squadron
12-09-2004, 01:12 PM
Or is the Menorah something that a non-Jew could have without being disrespectful? I've never considered having one, being Christian and all, but if it's not considered disrespectful, I think it might be cool to learn about the significance of it, and have one.

Great thread!

First, I'd like to comment that the candelabra used for Hanukah is, strictly speaking, a Hanukiah, not a Menorah. A menorah has 7 places for candles, a Hanukiah has 9. The menorah was one of the accessories for the inner Temple and is listed so in Tanach (Hebrew so-called Bible). Why it turned into a 9-candle holder is part of the tradition-lore-basis of Hanukah, which I won't elaborate here.

I encourage everyone to get or make a Hanukiah and light it. Say some sort of prayer or thanksgiving, then light it. Everything else surrounding the traditions are intepretations. The traditional prayers for lighting are:

Blessed are you, Shechinah, Queen of Everything, who sanctifies us by her mitzvot, and commands us to light the Hanukah lights.

Blessed are you, Adoshem, King of Everything, who made great miracles for our ancestors, in their era, at this time of year.

(Can you tell I'm a Reconstructionist Jew? ;j )

Shechinah is an approximate transliteration of the Hebrew word which means divine spirit or breath, traditionally considered to be a female aspect of the Almighty. The second prayer uses the more traditional Melech Ha-Olam, literally "King of Everything/World/Universe". I like refocusing my perception of G-d as male/female combined.

Mitzvot is usually translated as "commandments," which sounds like the Christian take on the "Old Testament G-d." I don't like this. I prefer to think of mitzvot as instructions for bringing us closer to G-d.

Adoshem is the traditional way to refer to the Hebrew for for "lord" when it's used to refer to G-d. As you can see, I prefer the traditional idea of not writing out the name of the Almighty.

Lubavitchers are the most active and visible branch of Hasidim in the US. They are particularly focused on bringing secular Jews back to the mitzvot. They drive about at Hanukah with large electric Hanukiahs, hand out hanukiahs and candles, etc. They do *not* proselytize, so they usually avoid approaching someone unless they think that person is Jewish.

I get the same problem with people not "picking me up" as a MOT (member of the tribe, ie Jewish). I don't at all look Jewish, and my name isn't particularly Jewish. That bugs me, but what ya gonna do?

I've done stuff with Lubavitchers, and spoken with them. They're very pleasant, and not at all insistent. I like them; they maintain a connection between us modern Jews and our heritage. Some Hasidic ideas are a bit off-the-wall, but the Hasidim themselves are (in most places) harmless. Perhaps not so in NYC, where doctrinal conflicts are always popping up. I also worry about the high-profile militancy of some ultra-Orthodox and Hasidim.

AskNott
12-09-2004, 03:54 PM
I've known several Christian families and churches that displayed menorahs at this time of year. I also know of a couple of Christian churches with a mezuzah by the door. (I'm pretty sure I misspelled that.) Just because Christians don't keep Kosher, it doesn't mean they've discarded all of Judaism. There's still a lot of carryover.

I'm a lapsed Presbyterian, by the way. ;j

Captain Amazing
12-09-2004, 04:19 PM
I encourage everyone to get or make a Hanukiah and light it. Say some sort of prayer or thanksgiving, then light it. Everything else surrounding the traditions are intepretations. The traditional prayers for lighting are:

Blessed are you, Shechinah, Queen of Everything, who sanctifies us by her mitzvot, and commands us to light the Hanukah lights.

Blessed are you, Adoshem, King of Everything, who made great miracles for our ancestors, in their era, at this time of year.

Except, of course, God didn't sanctify non-Jews by the mitzvot, command them to light the Hanukah lights, or make great miracles for their ancestors...so, it wouldn't make sense for a non-Jew to light the candles or say that.

carnivorousplant
12-09-2004, 04:26 PM
The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate[/URL][/i]. It's a great (true) story of a Jewish family in Billings, Montana

Thanks, Wombat. I was looking for that.

Ike Witt
12-09-2004, 04:49 PM
Since it is Chanukah, I assume that the OP is asking about a Chanukia and not the standard Menorah. I do have that right, don't I zev? Doesn't a Menorah have space for additional candles that a Chanukia doesn't?

GilaB
12-09-2004, 05:48 PM
Technically, the OP is indeed asking about a chanukia, rather than a menorah, but English-speaking Jews tend to use 'menorah' for both of them in casual conversation. (Israelis tend to distinguish between the two when speaking in Hebrew.) The menorah (which was used in the daily services in the Temple) had space for seven flames; the chanukiah has eight regular ones plus an extra for a shamesh the extra candle used to light the others.

FWIW, I (an Orthodox Jew) wouldn't be offended that a non-Jew had or lit a menorah, but I wouldn't really understand why they'd want one.

In the OP, Ghengis Bob asked about the significance of the menorah. A brief summary - back in the day, circa 200-150 BCE (I'm approximating,) Israel was a territory of the Ptolomeic monarchy, Greeks and Hellenized Egyptians. They and their Hellenized Jewish allies tried to suppress Jewish religious practices, forbidding Sabbath observance, circumcision, and Torah study, among other things, and mandating idolotry; they also completely trashed the Temple in Jerusalem, although they didn't destroy it. A group of Jews known as the Maccabees rebelled, and eventually gained control of most of Israel, including Jerusalem and the Temple. They cleaned out and renovated the Temple (and reestablished the Jewish monarchy), and wanted to start the normal daily service immediately. However, they needed certified ultra-pure olive oil to use to light the Menorah, which requires eight days to manufacture. They could only find one small container that was still sealed, enough for one day's lighting, but decided to light for just that one day, and then wait to light again until new ultra-pure olive oil was available. Miraculously, however, the Menorah stayed lit for eight days continuously on that one day's worth of oil, until the new supply was available. In commemoration of this miracle in particular, and of the general miracle of the successful rebellion, the rabbis established the holiday of Chanukah and mandated that the Jews publicly light candles every year on the same dates as the rededication of the Temple.

Part of the commandment is the public aspect of it - we have to light the menorah when and where people passing by in the street can see it, so the miracle is publicized. So to me, you've done your part by seeing menorahs, and asking about them here ;j Plus, it let me spend the time while my menorah was burning writing this up, which feels pretty appropriate - thanks!

As Captain Amazing said, the blessings themselves show how we view menorah lighting. (BTW, 633squadron, please don't be insulted, but I wouldn't term the first blessing you cite as the 'traditional' one; the traditional language also refers to 'the King of Everything' rather than the Shechinah.) It's done as the fulfillment of a commandment given to Jews, in commemoration of an event that happened to our ancestors.

This thread has one of the highest ;) per post ratios that I've ever seen here.

GilaB
12-09-2004, 05:50 PM
Sheesh, I previewed that literally five times, yet couldn't manage to get the smiley in my aside right - this thread has the highest ;j /post ratio, it's not exactly the most sarcastic thread I've ever seen.

Captain Amazing
12-09-2004, 05:56 PM
In the OP, Ghengis Bob asked about the significance of the menorah. A brief summary - back in the day, circa 200-150 BCE (I'm approximating,) Israel was a territory of the Ptolomeic monarchy, Greeks and Hellenized Egyptians.

Not to nitpick, especially because Israel was a territory of the Ptolomies, but by the time of the Macabee revolt, it was a territory of the Selucids, another successor state of Alexander. Here's a brief timeline:

166 BCE- Maccabee Revolt starts
164 BCE- Hasmonean forces take the Temple. Hannukah miracle
147 BCE-Israel granted autonomy by the Selucid kingdom
129 BCE-Selucid kingdom collapses, Israel becomes indepedent.

GilaB
12-09-2004, 06:00 PM
Thanks! You get a couple or ten years away from learning this in school, and the details get fuzzy - I knew I should've looked it up rather than just runing with it.

Scuba_Ben
12-09-2004, 06:01 PM
First, I'd like to comment that the candelabra used for Hanukah is, strictly speaking, a Hanukiah, not a Menorah. A menorah has 7 places for candles, a Hanukiah has 9. The menorah was one of the accessories for the inner Temple and is listed so in Tanach (Hebrew so-called Bible). Why it turned into a 9-candle holder is part of the tradition-lore-basis of Hanukah, which I won't elaborate here.Just to add a linguistic note, the word menorah translates most literally as "candlestick" or "candlabra." So a Chanukiyah is a special type of menorah.

Captain Amazing
12-09-2004, 06:06 PM
And, just for fun:

165 BCE: Matthias of Modin, head of the revolt dies
160 BCE: Judah Macabee killed at the battle of Elasa
142 BCE: Johanan Apphus, son of Matthias, brother of Judah, and leader of the revolt, captured and killed at Akko
134 BCE: Simon Thassi, next leader of the revolt, and brother of Judah and Johanan, son of Matthias, assassinated

Then John Hyrcanus took control, ended Syrian control, took over his neighbors, destroyed the Samaritan temple, and became the first king of an newly independent Israel.

vetbridge
12-09-2004, 06:07 PM
FWIW, I (an Orthodox Jew) wouldn't be offended that a non-Jew had or lit a menorah, but I wouldn't really understand why they'd want one.

I am not a Jew and I own a menorah. It is an heirloom that was once owned by my great grandmother who was Jewish. I do not light candles, but I display it along with other beautiful religious pieces as a work of art. If anyone were offended I would probably put it away somewhere. For someone who is totally nonreligious, I have a ton of religious "art".

rocking chair
12-09-2004, 06:21 PM
you mentioned lutheran. there is the advent candle tradition as well as the swedish st. lucia tradition.

perhaps y'all could add those traditions into your household?

Captain Amazing
12-09-2004, 06:32 PM
I am not a Jew and I own a menorah. It is an heirloom that was once owned by my great grandmother who was Jewish.


Was it your maternal great grandmother or your paternal one?

vetbridge
12-09-2004, 06:48 PM
Was it your maternal great grandmother or your paternal one?

maternal

redtail23
12-09-2004, 06:51 PM
In commemoration of this miracle in particular, and of the general miracle of the successful rebellion, the rabbis established the holiday of Chanukah and mandated that the Jews publicly light candles every year on the same dates as the rededication of the Temple.

Part of the commandment is the public aspect of it - we have to light the menorah when and where people passing by in the street can see it, so the miracle is publicized.

I can't really speak to the OP since IANAJ, but I have my own menorah and will be able to recite both traditional blessings from memory here in a couple-three days (always takes a few days to pick it up again after a year, doncha know). Half of my family is (not terribly observant) Jewish and we do Chanukah every year. Sometimes we invite close friends over, too.

I have two questions. First, I've never heard the part about lighting the menorah where people passing by can see. Second, I'm curious about why the blessings say that G-d commanded the candle-lighting if, as you say, rabbis established the holiday. I've tried some Googling, but most of the websites I'm finding are 'Chanukah-lite', i.e., very basic info about the holiday. Where can I look up more? We've got a Tanakh - would it be in there and, if so, where?

Thanks much!

P.S. I want a Menorahsaurus!

NinjaChick
12-09-2004, 09:01 PM
Hm. I have no answers, but I'm also going to jump in with a question -

I, for some reason, find myself believing that Hanukkah is (originally) an extremely minor holiday in the Jewish religion (which is apparently a totally different animal than the Jewish culture). I believe that I heard this from the rabbi of the synagogue I went to. However, he was also the same rabbi who told us (as a teacher, to his students, in class) that all Arabs were evil and we should pray that the IDF rid Israel of most of them. :rolleyes: :smack:

Anyway - is this true? Has it's placement more or less around Christmas turned a molehill into a mountain?

Jonathan Chance
12-09-2004, 10:15 PM
Yeah. It's a nice holiday but not one of the bigs like Yom Kippur or such.

But it's proximity to another, more culturally assertive holiday (at least in the US) gives it weight that it normally wouldn't have.

carnivorousplant
12-09-2004, 10:52 PM
more culturally assertive holiday

Does that mean children get presents?

I went to the outdoor menorah again tonight because not many folks have been showing up. One of the kids asked the Lubavitch Rabbi if he could have a dollar when he was given a half dollar Channukah gelt.

While I have you here, is a wig OK for Chasidic wife? There were little boys in kippas and tsit tsit, little girls in long dresses, lots of bare headed Mothers.

asterion
12-09-2004, 10:59 PM
Not to nitpick, especially because Israel was a territory of the Ptolomies, but by the time of the Macabee revolt, it was a territory of the Selucids, another successor state of Alexander. Here's a brief timeline:

166 BCE- Maccabee Revolt starts
164 BCE- Hasmonean forces take the Temple. Hannukah miracle
147 BCE-Israel granted autonomy by the Selucid kingdom
129 BCE-Selucid kingdom collapses, Israel becomes indepedent.

Yep. It's all in the second half of Daniel and the books of the Maccabees. The author of Daniel describes the events three times; I suggest reading chapter 11 as that is the chapter that gives a detailed history without any apocalyptic symbolism. The Maccabees are in the Apocraphya, so you might need to find yourself another Bible, depending on your exact religion/denomination.

Captain Amazing
12-09-2004, 11:09 PM
Yep. It's all in the second half of Daniel and the books of the Maccabees.

It's also in books 12 and 13 of Josephus's Antiquities, which tends to use less veiled language than Daniel, and covers a wider scope than Maccabees.

Captain Amazing
12-09-2004, 11:12 PM
Here's how Josephus explains the origins of Hannukah, btw...

Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days, and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it "Lights". I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival.

Captain Amazing
12-09-2004, 11:22 PM
maternal

Was she your mother's mother's mother? Because if that's the case, then maybe you might be able to actually use that menorah.

NinjaChick
12-10-2004, 12:53 AM
Does that mean children get presents?

If your question is whether or not Jewish children get gifts for Hanukkah, I can say from experience: Yes. My parents, in fact, shipped me a box of (basically cheap worthless) gifts. One for each night. Which I'm not going to complain about.

carnivorousplant
12-10-2004, 08:10 AM
If your question is whether or not Jewish children get gifts for Hanukkah, No, I was just joking that we give children gifts because Christian children get presents on Christmas.

Genghis Bob
12-10-2004, 08:29 AM
Just chiming back in to say thanks, all, for your responses, history, and cites. I've already learned a lot.

GilaB
12-10-2004, 11:58 AM
I Where can I look up more? We've got a Tanakh - would it be in there and, if so, where?!
It won't be in a Tanach (a Jewish Bible,) although I think it's in the Christian Old Testament. (I'm not quite clear on which of the Catholic or Protestant Old Testaments include Maccabees and the extra chapters of Daniel, but I think it's only one of them.) I'm not the person to ask about why the phrasing of the blessings is what it is - perhaps Zev or Chaim could help out.
While I have you here, is a wig OK for Chasidic wife? There were little boys in kippas and tsit tsit, little girls in long dresses, lots of bare headed Mothers.
Yup, wigs are fine. It depends on the Hasidic sect (some actually put hats on top of fairly fake-looking wigs, some wear realistic wigs) but overall, most Hasidic married women are wearing wigs. Lubavitch ones (the women who were presumably at the menorah lighting) would probably be wearing more realistic ones, no hats.

asterion
12-10-2004, 12:13 PM
It won't be in a Tanach (a Jewish Bible,) although I think it's in the Christian Old Testament. (I'm not quite clear on which of the Catholic or Protestant Old Testaments include Maccabees and the extra chapters of Daniel, but I think it's only one of them.) I'm not the person to ask about why the phrasing of the blessings is what it is - perhaps Zev or Chaim could help out.


Protesants only include the same books that are in a Tanach. Roman Catholics include most of the Apocrypha, and I believe Orthodox include even more, but that could be reversed. Anyway, the best is to go look for a Bible that specificially says that it includes the Apocrypha. As long as you're at it, I suggest a study Bible using an NRSV translation, such as the Harper-Collins Study Bible with Apocrypha.

There's a whole slew of early Christian writings out there as well, some of which makes it into bibles with the Apocrypha.

zev_steinhardt
12-10-2004, 12:38 PM
I have two questions. First, I've never heard the part about lighting the menorah where people passing by can see.


That is, actually, the whole reason that we light the menorah to begin with - to publicize the miracle. If no one can see it, it defeats the purpose.


Second, I'm curious about why the blessings say that G-d commanded the candle-lighting if, as you say, rabbis established the holiday.


The Rabbis have the authority to establish "rabbinic commandments." In fact, seven such commandments are currently in place. Those seven are:

1. Reciting a blessing before eating food
2. Washing one's hands before eating bread
3. Lighting candles for Shabbos and holidays (not Channukah)
4. Celebrating Purim
5. Celebrating Channukah
6. The laws of the Eruv
7. Reciting Hallel (Psalms 113-118) during morning prayers on holidays, Channukah and Rosh Chodesh (the start of the new month - a minor holiday)

When one performs any of these commandments s/he recites a blessing which includes the standard formula "...who has sanctified with his commandments and commanded us to [fill in name of the commandment]" (except the first one - one does not make a blessing on a blessing).

The reason we say this blessing even though these commandments are not among the 613 given in the Torah is because we are commanded to listen to the Sages when they institute new legislation.

Zev Steinhardt

redtail23
12-10-2004, 02:35 PM
I guess I'll need to add a new Bible to my collection, I don't think I own one with the Apocrypha. Thanks to all for the advice!

That is, actually, the whole reason that we light the menorah to begin with - to publicize the miracle. If no one can see it, it defeats the purpose. I'd never realized that part, but I guess it would explain the Chanukah lights in the window. :) (We don't have anywhere that a burning-candle-filled Chanukiyah could safely be placed for public viewing, but we do have electric candles that go in the window each night when we light candles.)

The Rabbis have the authority to establish "rabbinic commandments." In fact, seven such commandments are currently in place. Those seven are:

1. Reciting a blessing before eating food
2. Washing one's hands before eating bread
3. Lighting candles for Shabbos and holidays (not Channukah)
4. Celebrating Purim
5. Celebrating Channukah
6. The laws of the Eruv
7. Reciting Hallel (Psalms 113-118) during morning prayers on holidays, Channukah and Rosh Chodesh (the start of the new month - a minor holiday)

When one performs any of these commandments s/he recites a blessing which includes the standard formula "...who has sanctified with his commandments and commanded us to [fill in name of the commandment]" (except the first one - one does not make a blessing on a blessing).

The reason we say this blessing even though these commandments are not among the 613 given in the Torah is because we are commanded to listen to the Sages when they institute new legislation.

Got it. I've noticed the consistency of phrasing in various rituals, but didn't know what it was about. Thanks very much for the explanations.

zev, do Orthodox generally do one Chanukiyah for the family, or does everyone get their own? I ask because I usually only see one largish one in pictures, but other people posting here talk about one per person like we do - but it seems like it's the less traditional folks. (I had always figured our method wasn't common/traditional, but just something we did.)

It is quite something on the last night, with all candles lit on all of them, though. It's definitely visible from the street, although a passerby might not be able to tell just what it was. ;j

NinjaChick
12-10-2004, 02:42 PM
No, I was just joking that we give children gifts because Christian children get presents on Christmas.
Heh. I feel whooshed.

Actually, why do Jews give gifts for Hannukah? I mean, isn't it all about oil?

bites lip and runs away from getting political

adirondack_mike
12-10-2004, 04:01 PM
Heh. I feel whooshed.

Actually, why do Jews give gifts for Hannukah? I mean, isn't it all about oil?



I believe that they are supposed to give money - chanukah gelt . From what I can remember (and googled to confirm) - was that the poor should have sufficient money to buy chanukah candles. This is cited from the Talmud - paraphrased - that if one didn't have the moola to buy candles they should go from door to door to raise the cash.

I am pretty sure but cannot cite that the gift giving is because of the proximity of Xmas. There is no historical precedent of gift giving tied to Chanukah.

zev_steinhardt
12-12-2004, 10:21 AM
zev, do Orthodox generally do one Chanukiyah for the family, or does everyone get their own? I ask because I usually only see one largish one in pictures, but other people posting here talk about one per person like we do - but it seems like it's the less traditional folks. (I had always figured our method wasn't common/traditional, but just something we did.)


Customs vary from family to family. In some families, only the head-of-houselhold lights. In others, everyone lights.

In my family, we have no "official" custom. When my wife and I got married, I lit for both of us. As our kids got older, they each wanted to light, so they each have thier own menorah. We currently have four menorahs in our window (one for each of the kids and one for my wife and myself).

Zev Steinhardt

Broomstick
12-12-2004, 01:13 PM
FWIW, I (an Orthodox Jew) wouldn't be offended that a non-Jew had or lit a menorah, but I wouldn't really understand why they'd want one.
You know, I hear that from a lot of Jews I've known over the years - "I'm not offended but I don't understand why a Gentile would want to do X Jewish custom"

Well, what follows is opinion, but here's my thoughts on the matter:

Most places in the US (and a lot of other places in the world) Jews are a presence. They're not a majority, but they've been around a long time and people have always been curious about "them" (along with other forms of "them" that might be about) This can be good curiousity ("Oooo! Neat! That's so nifty!") or bad curiousity ("What dirt can we discover and use against them?"), but curiousity exists. That's one reason right there. Some people study a variety of religions - Christianity, Buddism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Animism, etc. - either as a "seeker" or just because it's an area of human experience that interests them, and such people will, of course, at some point focus their interest on Judaism.

Now, there IS a relationship between Christianity and Judaism. There are Christians who seek a better understanding of their own faith by studying the context in which Christianity first appeared - and that leads them back to Judaism and the Middle East. Some of these folks will study the languages, food, art, and other cultural aspects of those lands both past and present. And some will do things like celebrate a Passover Seder since the Last Supper featured in the Christian mythos was, indeed, just such a celebration. Such people may well also seek to celebrate Hanukah on one level or another.

Some people, recalling the horrific pogroms, holocausts, and other attempted genocides of the Jews (along with other such atrocities commited towards others) believe that through better understanding of others and their customs such hatreds will be much harder to foment and thus will lead to a world where such horrors are much less likely to occur.

In some cases - such as The Christmas Menorahs - adopting Jewish customs or symbols can be a sign of solidarity with an oppressed group. This ties in with the prior paragraph.

Some people who are Gentiles nonetheless have Jewish ancestry to one degree or another, and may continue certain traditions as a way of keeping the memory of that connection alive, and in some cases educating children as to the different customs of a group of relatives.

Some people collect religious art - and you don't have to be of a particular faith to do so. Some people collect Eastern Orthodox Icons. Some people collect ornamental crosses. Some people collect tribal totems. Some people might well collect menorahs or other Jewish artifacts.

So there are actually a number of reasons a Gentile might desire a menorah, either for lighting purposes or not. It's not the same reason they're acquired and used by Jews (i.e. a commandment of their religion), but there are reasons. Judging by how the goyim are stumbling over their own feet to avoid giving even a suggestions of offense in some cases I'd guess most of what we're seeing here is a positve curiousity about what the neighbors are doing with the bright lights and shiny objects.

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