The New York Times has just recently challenged its Jewish readers by featuring a provocative but deeply misguided column headlined “The Hypocrisy of Hanukkah.”
In it, novelist Michael David Lukas trashed our joyous winter festival as “an eight-night long celebration of religious fundamentalism and violence.” The writer identified himself with the “Hellenized Jews” in the second century BC who rejected the faith of their ancestors and defiled the Jerusalem Temple with the worship of Greek gods—lusty deities who demanded ethical behavior from neither themselves nor from humanity. It’s not fundamentalism to cherish ancient traditions and holy ordinances, and it wasn’t “violence” to cleanse and rededicate the Temple and ourselves.
The word Hanukkah derives from Hebrew for “dedication”, and it also connects to the word “Chinuch”—or education. The derisive author who slammed “the hypocrisy of Hannukah” might benefit, like the rest of us, from re-dedication and education.