So our Governor and Mayor of Boston, like many dignitaries across the country and perhaps the world, lit the Hanukkiah last night:
Governor Deval Patrick and other dignitaries attended a menorah lighting ceremony at the State House this afternoon to mark the beginning of Hanukah, the eight-day celebration that commemorates the victory of a small army of Jews, known as the Maccabees, over the much larger Syrian Greek army in 139 B.C.
State Senate President Therese Murray, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Rabbi Rachmiel Liberman of the Congregation Lubavitch Jewish Educational Center participated in the event.
Of course I like to see such symbolic events. Lord knows Jewish people could use some acceptance these days. [That is, unless some protesters were bussed in from Somerville excoriating the crowd not to buy Tribe hummus, but the article doesn’t mention any of that.]
But here I go again. Such symbolism has a price, and the price is the impression to everyone that Hanukkah is our most important holiday. I mean, for what other holiday does a sitting Governor make such a symbolic gesture?
I guess, if there is to be some gesture towards the Jewish citizens, then Hanukkah offers something easy. The Governor just has to stand above one of these gigantic Hanukkiot and symbolically “light” the first candle. No muss no fuss and very visible.
But I mentioned already other holidays which are way more important than Hanukkah. Maybe instead of lighting the candles, the Governor can do something else:
- Blow the shofar at Rosh Hashana [takes practice, risk of making idiot of self]
- Shake a lulav and esrog in a sukkah [has to be shown, risk of doing it wrong]
- Dance the hora holding a torah during Simchat Torah [risk of slippage, dropping torah which would be hugely bad in so many ways, risk of getting shittied on bad scotch]
- Ask the four questions at a seder [English OK, accompanied by sufficiently cute little kid who asks them in Hebrew]
Look, I don’t mean to be ungrateful. I am so thankful for the extraordinary accomplishment of not only Jews in America but America itself in producing a society in which Jewish people can thrive without losing their identity. And I do smile whenever I see the spectacle of a figurehead lighting the Hanukkiah. But if we are ever going to have our neighbors learn anything about our religion [just as we Jews could use a bit of learning about our neighbors’ religions], perhaps we should begin by dispelling the myth that Hanukkah is really so fundamentally important in the first place.