Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas

Both the Jewish and Christian holidays occur annually in December. Christians have accepted December 25th as a date to honour the incarnation, the birth of Jesus the Son of God. The Jewish community celebrates the Festival of Lights known as Chanukah (pronounced Hanukah) with an eight-day holiday beginning on December 25th. While the Christian faith tradition has Jewish roots, and while they share some common features, like lights, food and gifted presents, they are historically and practically dissimilar. In Century 2 the Maccabees successfully rebelled against Syrian Antiochus IV Epiphanes who had ravaged the temple. This festival commemorates the 2nd century purification and rededication of the temple in Jerusalem with the kindling of the menorah lights, one light on each of the holiday nights. Tradition teaches that the wicks burned miraculously for eight days with only a one day supply of sacred oil.

Jewish and Christian faith traditions have not excelled at understanding one another. Christians and secularists have often mocked Jewish culture and characteristics. I have learned that disrespect occurs among Jews for Christians. I recall a December afternoon concert at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto and chatting with two Jewish couples when one of the women said, “I hate Jesus and this Christmas thing.” That vivid recollection is the reason why comments credited to Ben Stein struck a responsive chord with me yesterday. In a CBS commentary spot on a Sunday Morning show he said, “I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are, Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crèche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away. I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.”

That was part of a much larger commentary article which was sent to inboxes all over the world recently but this section may be the only true Steinistic part. Someone added the other material and turned this into an urban legend thing. (More tomorrow)

If you want to hear and see Stein on this topic for 2 min. click this sentence. There is an ad and some intro stuff and then the relevant excerpt.

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