Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chanukah and Kids: Time for Some Truth


Rebbe Bush posses a very interesting and thought provoking question here, I know it is shocking.

If our holiday of oil - both by way of personal consumption and by way of our candles - why doesn't it say anything about oil in the stories? We teach our kids to believe a lie.

While there are many wonderful blog entries about the story of Chanukah (See I read blogs besides Jewschool) what I want to focus on is what we tell the kids.

The pressure is on to make Jewish babies and insure the future of the Jewish people but what the hell are we telling our kids? I suppose it goes to the core question of faith; believing the unbelievable.

As a Reform Jew and one who will look to history for answers I know full well that the Jews were most likely not in Egypt and that the Temple probably was not destroyed twice on the exact same day hundreds of years apart and the Torah wasn't written by God or even in the desert we know as Sinai, but I still want to pass on the rich traditions to my kids…so what do I do about these Crazy Eight Nights?

First off I got to be honest with you; I can not stand this time of year. Makes me crazy! All this fake cheer and pretending to love everyone with gifts and money and all that crap makes me nuts. Chanukah would be a small holiday if it weren't for the "War on Christmas." But that is another story for another time. This "war" has propelled Chanukah from a celebration of beating some oppressors into submission into the most publicized Jewish holiday in the most Jewish country (outside of Israel) in the modern world.

So what should we tell our kids?

The oil didn't last eight days and nights. The Maccabees were not such good people. The entire idea of Jewish supremacy - not the light upon the nations supremacy* - but like the KKK supremacy. But we tell our kids that Judah and his Pops were the only good Jews left. Why?
*That will be a post at some point as well

As a modern Reform Jew I am more like a Hellenistic Jew of that time than anything the radical Maccabees were. I for one don't want my kids to pick up a sword and going after a Jew who practices differently than I do. I would like him or her to pick up a pen – or keyboard – and fight that way. But killing another person over a belief? Doesn't seem very modern or Reform or at all a good idea.

I propose we tell the kids the truth. There is no need to water down our history. If we tell our kids why things happened – an age that they can understand the importance of the story – insted of a jaded idea of man-made miracles our kids will have a more complex understanding of the story. In a past life I worked as a teacher and my student would ALWAYS roll their eyes when we would talk about Chanukah and the oil or any of the other completely unbelievable things we tell our kids just to believe.

While teaching our kids to love God is imperative, we should teach them to love God in a mature and forward thinking manner. Blind faith isn’t Jewish.

Happy Chanukah.

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