Holiday Dilemmas

Copyright Rabbi Eli Hecht
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Now that the holiday of Chanukah has passed children are getting ready for the Christmas celebrations.  How does a Rabbi, the Jewish educator, deal with the holiday season?  I believe it is best to know the meaning of both holidays and find similarities and reasons for rejoicing.

Chanukah took place in Israel in 165 B.C.E., years before the birth of Christ.  Brave Jewish fighters, called Maccabees, rebelled against the Greek oppression of religious rights.  When freedom was obtained a Menorah (candelabra) was lit.  Miraculously the lights burned for 8 days, never replenishing its source of oil.  Jews world over celebrate this event with public Menorah lightings, festivities, and exchanging gifts.

Christmas, the holiday marking the birth of Christ, is highlighted by family get-togethers, prayers, festivities, exchanging gifts and general holiday cheer.

Jewish and Christian faiths recognize the need for religion in our chaotic world.  It has been said that for those who have religion there are no questions and for those with no religion there are no answers.  In my community I have a day care and private school.  Children are taught the importance of religions and the need for people to identify with religious objects and symbols.  They are taught that there are "Chanukah people" and "Christmas people" and most of us belong to one or the other. 

When the holidays come around you feel respectful of each other's religion. 

My neighbors send me holiday cheer and cards marking their holidays and I reciprocate with my holiday cards and invitations. 

Our great country, America, is a melting pot where our differences or prejudices melt away.  Here our children love the holidays, each practicing their own while respecting others.

Once, when passing by a nativity scene, my 6 year old said "Look at the people, they must be Maccabees" (meaning Jewish warriors.)  I told him that they were not Maccabees but they were part of the holiday celebrations of our country.  "That's cool" was his reply. 

Cool it is indeed when we honor each other's holidays. 

A happy holiday to you all.