Hanukkah: More Than Just Presents?

December 7, 2012Katharine Nasielski

This weekend, we will gather together with family or friends (or, if you’re on the RAC staff, with 215 high school students at L’Taken) around the Chanukah lights, spin the dreidel, eat latkes and sufganiyot sufganiyotסֻפְגָּנִית"Jelly doughnuts;" traditionally eaten in Israel during Hanukkah; singular: sufganiyah. and engage in the great “applesauce or sour cream” debate.

While we mostly think of Chanukah as a time to rack up presents or listen to Adam Sandler sing about 8 crazy nights, there are ways to tie the themes and lessons of the story of the Maccabees to crucial issues of our time like the environment, economic justice, human trafficking, religious liberty or children’s issues.

In fact, the derivation of the name “Chanukah” gives us ample reason to focus on acts that repair the world during these eight days. Chanukah takes its name from the Maccabees’ rededication of the Temple after their battle against King Antiochus. By returning to and reclaiming the Temple, the Maccabees recommitted themselves to a Jewish way of life, to all that they held dear. Thus, Chanukah asks us to rededicate ourselves not only to our Judaism, but to the values we place at the center of our faith. In particular, Chanukah can be a time when we rededicate ourselves to the work of tikkun olam - repair of the world.

Check out the RAC’s Chanukah Social Justice Chanukah Guide for ideas for your synagogue or family to make this Chanukah particularly meaningful! And to those of you for whom Chanukah will always be all about the gifts take a look at our Social Justice Holiday Gift Guide!

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