Holiday Assimilation

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Chanukah, A Meaning Lost


The interpretation of our beloved Holyday has changed.  As children we learned the meaning of the eight days of celebration.  We learned that our Jewish lives were saved because an oil lamp lasted eight days to save the Jewish people from darkness, from disaster.  We celebrate the miracle that kept our ancestors from being annihilated, as they were spared because of the light that kept them from certain destruction and death!

We have forgotten why we celebrate Chanukah now.  Children and their adult families have imitated the Christians by buying gifts for their children and others to make them happy.  They also have copied the anger of the people when they feel disadvantaged and not having gotten gifts that they expected.  It has become a meaningless holiday with material objects or lack of same being the most important part of the celebration of the eight days of Chanukah.  Playing dreidel is ignored, who has the best or most expensive gift, who has been ignored or forgotten; he who gets the best presents must be very important, more loved; who gives the least gifts is ignored, including the poor family member who has little money or joy from buying and or contributing useless items which will or will not be appropriate for the religious occasion that it was meant to be.  Anger and hatred are a part of the festivity, which has little to do with the meaning of the holy day that is Chanukah.  People are labeled by their generosity, regardless of their ability to pay for a wanted present.  Religion is forgotten, especially the meaning of the particular Yom Tov.  The dreidel and its symbols are pushed aside and its meaning of pure “luck” is ignored, if played at all.  The cost of gifts given is correlated to the love that the giver has or does not have for the designated receiver.  Those are allegedly loved the most who have enough money to give the costliest gift to the recipient.  He who gives no gift or a “cheap” gift is denigrated and labeled as selfish, stingy, or uncaring.  The donator is labeled with ugly names and an uncaring personality.  No one thinks about the poor person’s inability to meet the expectations of the taker.  No thought is give the “nebbich” who has little to hand to the taker.

What has happened to us, the Jewish people?  Have we become goyim who run to the department stores to buy meaningless merchandise to enrich mostly the store owners who want to sell their wares as quickly and expensively as possible? We have forgotten who we are, what the festival of Chanukah means, what we are celebrating, and for what meaning.  We forgot the celebration and how we were spared from the cruel enemies who have tried to destroy us; how “hashem” spared us; how the lights have allowed us to see and protect us from our enemies.  Have we forgotten “Rachmones” for the needy, the poor, and our fellow religionists, and our responsibility to remember our “Brothers” and our fellow men who love us for us and our righteousness rather than the merchandise of stores?  Let us remember our history, our religion, our need to help the poor, the forgotten, our fellow Jews as well as our poor, our needy and how we can help one another daily.  Chanukah is a symbolic time of year; let us remember the history and the meaning  of that “yom tov,” that holiday!


 Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

Home ] Up ]