Since Christmas Eve, the first day of Chanukah, I have been lighting a Menorah (also called a chanukiyah with it’s 9-branches) for the sole reason that we have a menorah that my wife has had for years and I wanted to put it to use for the first time. I figured after nearly 20 years together (Oct 2017) we might as well use it so I polished it, bought some candles and went off to the races.
There was no deeper meaning that that. I’m not a Jew and we’re not even remotely Jew-ish. Bad jokes aside I’ve stepped foot into a Synagogue once during a youth-group related trip and therein ends my dalliance with the Jewish faith.
The first night I forgot to use the shamash, or attendant candle, in the middle and for the first 3 nights I had all of the candles in the menorah when apparently you’re supposed to add them each night leaving spots empty for the days that have yet to arrive.
The more nights that I’ve done this the more I’ve read up on it and the more I’ve learned and been able to share with my family. Apparently oil is the preferred traditional way to do things but I didn’t do this to be Orthodoxy, I did it because we had a menorah and I’m going with what we have this holiday season.
I also deviate from tradition in that I don’t say the Chanukah Prayers before lighting the menorah simply because it’s not my faith and I always feel a little weird reciting prayers that are not a part of my belief structure. Maybe that’s from living in California too long and I don’t want to “appropriate” too much of somebody else’s culture but it’s just always been an issue of comfort for me. I’ll bow my head, I’ll hold hands (sometimes) and I’ll respect your faith but I probably won’t say the words. It’s a quirk of mine and nothing more. If you ask me to pray with you that might be a different story.
In a somewhat interesting twist, at least to me, the first year I have ever added some Chanukah into my life is the same year that our President & Secretary of States decided to slap Israel around at the United Nations while seemingly trying to change literally decades of U.S. foreign policy in these last few weeks of Democratic control of the White House. Have what opinions you will about Israel but I find it hard to believe that they’d pull these stunts, and they are stunts, during Chanukah.
The bitter irony here is that the vast majority of Jews vote Democrat so they chose the President and administration that slaps their cultural homeland when he’s not pandering for votes at the Western Wall.
Which leads me to a painfully obvious question. Why do Jews vote Democrat? People of the Jewish faith are stereotyped as being thrifty, cheap even, in their finances. The association with banks is taken to pejorative and hyperbolic levels around the world and yet the one area, the one domain in which they aren’t fiscally restrained is in government which relies on their own money and the money of their children to function. It’s a baffling situation.
Back to our menorah. I’ll keep lighting our little menorah and learning more about this interesting faith as time goes on and if it’s seem as cultural appropriation then I’ll proudly appropriate part of their culture because I find it interesting and will always, ALWAYS, add good things into my life regardless of their origin.
I’m a fan of Israel and I like the Jewish faith because it doesn’t proselytize and Jews, outside of (R)/(D) political debates, have always been kind to me and my family. I’d love to take my family to Israel at some point to see the history and culture but until my own finances straighten out to afford such a trip I will continue to light our menorah and teach my kids a little bit about a faith not our own. Oh yeah, and open Lego presents for 8 straight nights.
With all of that said — Happy Chanukah to my Jewish friends.