|Dr Annette M. Boeckler|
For Reflections Shabbat Hanukkah II (Miketz)
Hanukkah and us
From a liturgical point of view, Hanukkah is no hag, not a "festival", but just a normal day with just some special customs. Today we have a normal Shabbat service. The only exception is that we insert Hallel after the Amida, a reminder that Hanukkah is a version of Sukkot (see 2 Macc 10:5-8). As the Haftarot always relate to a special situation, we have a special haftara. But there is no special Hanukkah Nussach, no special Hanukkah Amida - Hanukkah is liturgically seen not a festival.
We may therefore question if the most important feature of Jewish festivals is applicable to Hanukkah: in every generation everybody should regard him- and herself as if he or she was part of the Exodus, stood at Sinai, lived in huts in the desert.
If we nevertheless try to connect us to Hanukkah, what then shall we identify with? Shall we regard ourselves as if we are fighting as the Makkabees? The talmud rejects this and rather wants us to regard ourselves as if we were about loosing hope in deepest darkness and suddenly discover light (Shab 21b).
There were indeed often situations in the Jewish history where Hanukkah had a very powerful message in its time. It may also have a deep message for some of us as individuals today, too, but is there also a message for our anglo-jewish community today? We need not to defend our religion as in the times of the Maccabbes. Many of us probably don't even want to separate themselves from our non Jewish environment. We appreciate to be part of the general culture, something the Maccabbees once fought against. Neither is Anglo Jewry going through deeply dark times at the moment where we would need a message of hope, be it as tiny as a little light. So Hanukkah became for many of us a children's festival, full of fun, games, presents and donuts. Is that it?
Our torah portion may hint to an answer. Pharao dreams of seven handsome and sturdy cows that were eaten by seven ugly and gaunt ones, and of seven healthy ears of grain that were consumed by seven thin ones. Joseph explains: there will be bad years in the future, prepare yourself now!
Maybe the meaning of Hanukkah for Anglo Jewry in 2009 may be similar. Now our life as Jewish community is basically good and peaceful. Now we have time to study, to learn, to practise Judaism in freedom and to teach it to others. Let's hope that the times, when Hanukkah speaks to us directly and clearly are not near at all, but let us study the message of Hanukkah today to know it in future times, when needed.