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Hanukkah

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“A candle is a small thing. But one candle can light another. And see how its own light increases, as a candle gives its flame to the other. You are such a light.” -Moshe Davis and Victor Ratner

When our children were younger, we wanted to find ways to make the value of Hanukkah more than receiving a gift each night. One night, we invited non-Jewish friends to share in our holiday, another night was designated as Family Game Night, and yet another night was reserved for a community-wide celebration, where we brought an unwrapped gift for someone in need. While we tried not to...

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One day after a Girl Scout Brownie meeting, my wife received a call from an irate mom accusing our third-grader of ruining her daughter’s childhood: “Mimi announced in front of all the girls that there is no Santa Claus!” My wife apologized, but in Mimi’s defense, pointed out that sooner or later they would realize that Mimi was right. The woman didn’t want to hear about truth. In her view, a cherished Christmas custom had been spoiled.

Mimi is now 30 and married to Wes, a Jew-by-choice. As they are expecting their first child in February, I thought this would be a good time to ask...

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Today we light the fourth candle of Hanukkah. We kindle lights – each Shabbat and, as we’re doing this week, during the darkest period of the year. We also kindle lights during the darkest moments in history, and in countless ways: in the values we espouse, in the kindnesses we extend, and in the visions we hold of a world redeemed and whole.

Despite the way it’s celebrated, though, Hanukkah really isn’t a holiday for children. Sure, we tell our kids the story of Antiochus, the “bad guy” who oppressed the Jews, and then we tell them about Judah Maccabee and his brothers, who fought...

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In 1974 in Philadelphia, a small menorah was lit in front of Independence Hall, home to the iconic Liberty Bell. The menorah was crude and made of wood. Five people attended what is now considered to be the first Chabad-Lubavitch public-menorah lighting. Regardless of the constitutional implications of this action, the idea of religious freedom embodied by the Hanukkah holiday deeply resonates with the core principles of American democracy. The attention currently lavished by American Jews on Hanukkah makes it difficult to imagine that there was once a time when it was a minor holiday. Yet...

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Christmas tree or Hanukkah menorah? December portends heated Christmas/Hanukkah-dilemma conversations for the increasing number of interfaith families. In my many years as a congregational rabbi, I convened numerous meetings about Hanukkah pride and counseled many interfaith families on settling their differences. The glinty, chocolaty geld for St. Nick's and the similar gelt (foil-wrapped chocolate coins) for Hanukkah may help dissolve some of these annual tensions.

St. Nick's Coins Save Family My husband and I happened upon St. Nicholas traditions in chocolate-suffused Belgium in...

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