I love the Jewish holidays — well, all of them except this one and I’ll probably offend just about everyone explaining why
It’s not Krismus, Crissmass or Xristmas. So why do we get to choose Hanuka, Hannuka, Hanukka, Chanuka, Chanukka, Channukah and any other combination of H or CH, one or two N’s, one or two K’s and a final H or not?
I just cannot and will not support a holiday they can’t decide how to spell.
There are lots of other reasons I don’t like this least important holiday on the Jewish calendar.
First and foremost, because it certainly is the least important holiday on the Jewish calendar. Most other Jewish holidays have roots in the Bible. This one is from the Book of Maccabbees, which we threw out of the Bible more than 2,000 years ago.
We threw the book out but celebrate its holiday? Nonsense.
A little history to explain what Hannukah celebrates: In 167 B.C.E., a few thousand Jewish fighters, called the Maccabees, beat the crap out of about 40,000 Assyrians and gained independence. They did it by inventing guerrilla warfare.
About 250 years later, in order to continue practicing their religion under the Romans who would have been ticked off knowing a small band of Jews could beat the crap out of a large army, Jews made up the “great miracle” story of the oil lasting eight days until they received a new shipment in Jerusalem.
Eight days? Really? J-town is about 40 miles from the coast where the oil is refined. Sounds like someone was partying in Tel Aviv a few days before hopping down to Jaffa, stopping at the Exxon station and hightailing it back home.
So Chanuka celebrates the invention of guerrilla warfare, or it celebrates a bullshit made-up story. Take your pick.
Now, other Jewish holidays also may be based on events that never happened. Who knows if Moses lifted his staff and parted the Red Sea? That’s part of the story of Passover.
But Passover also celebrates some good concepts — like slavery bad, freedom good.
And who knows if Queen Esther told the king she was Jewish? Turns out the king really loved her hot ass so he put to death Haman, who was planning to exterminate the Jews. Thus we have Purim, which teaches that genocide is evil.
And did Moses come down from Mount Sinai — the mountain in Sinai, not the hospital on Long Island — with the 15 Commandments?
Whether that actually happened or not, Shavuot celebrates the giving of the law. We learn not to murder or covet thy neighbor’s ass or thy neighbor’s wife’s ass — all good things.
But Hanuka is the first holiday that celebrates something we actually know never happened. Oil? Miracle? All made up. We know we made it up. Maybe those 10 plagues that preceded the Exodus never happened either, but at least we don’t know they never happened.
Channukah is also the laziest holiday on the Jewish calendar. One simple prayer that’s ripped off from Shabbat with the change of just one word — that’s how lazy we were with this holiday.
Light a few spindly candles. Give your wife a fur coat or a new Cadillac and, azoy, it’s done.
Passover involves cleaning out the kitchen and replacing all the dishes with Passover plates and removing all the food and replacing it with special Passover food.
(I’m not sure what most Jews will be doing for Passover this year since Manischewitz was purchased by Bain Capital last spring — but that’s another story.)
A huge Passover meal is prepared. Families gather and tell the story of the Exodus and sing songs and eat.
Yom Kippur involves an evening and then a full day of fasting and prayer followed by a huge feast to break the fast.
Sukkot is celebrated by eating a meal in a makeshift shelter built outside in the yard and decorated with fruits and vegetables and Christmas lights. (Well, I think the Christmas lights on the Sukkah tradition might be a Dallas thing.) As we eat out under the stars that shine through the top of the sukkah, we give thanks for the bountiful harvest.
But Chanukkah? Hanukah has one measly prayer and one monotonous song: “I have a little dreidl. They made it in China out of plastic. And when it’s dry and ready. Then dreidl I shall play.” Repeat. Repeat. Keep repeating til you can’t stand the damn song anymore.
And just how do you play dreidl? A dreidl is a four-sided top with a letter on each face. As you spin the top, place bets on which letter will land face up.
Yes, one of the joys of Hanukah is teaching little children to gamble. I guess had little Bugsy Seigel, Meyer Lansky and the rest of the
Jewish mafia not learned gambling at Chanukah, there may never have been a Las Vegas.
And traditionally, Hanuka isn’t the gift-giving holiday. Purim is.
Channukah became the gift-giving holiday sometime after World War II in suburban America, so little Jewish kids wouldn’t feel left out.
Funny, I never felt left out. I always thought I could celebrate and enjoy my friends’ holidays with them and they could celebrate my holidays with me.
We always have non-Jewish friends at our Passover seder, Sukkot dinner and Purim party. And we do our non-Jewish friends a great favor by not subjecting them to 10 hours of Yom Kippur services.
This year, Channuka begins on Dec. 16, so the annual Jewish Christmas Eve ritual of eating Chinese food, as mandated in Leviticus, takes place just as Hanukah ends.
This year, Congregation Beth El Binah’s biblically ordered Christmas feast takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 24 at Thairrific in Oak Lawn. Yes, we know it’s Thai and not Chinese, but God spoke to us and said it is better for an LGBT congregation to feast on Cedar
Springs and the basic concept that pork is kosher only when wrapped in a wonton still applies.
And for the record, here’s how the holiday should be spelled in English taken from the Hebrew spelling: .
The first letter is a gutteral KH as in — well, we don’t have that sound in English. But not a CH as in chocolate and not an H as in “holy shit everyone spells this holiday wrong.”
Hebrew words don’t have double letters, so no double N or double K and there is a final H in the Hebrew spelling. And sometimes in
Hebrew the word has the OO as the middle letter. Some spellings leave it out.
Long story short about Hebrew vowels — they’re traditionally understood, not written. You know which vowel to use going by a long set of rules.
So the correct spelling of the holiday, the one no one has ever used and no one — except me — suggests we begin to use, is KH not CH, one N, a long OO, one K and a final H: Khanookah.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 5, 2014.