The Peel

peelDear N.:

We want our house to look perfect this holiday season. From the strings of lights in our trees, to the lawn display—three Middle Eastern guys with a camel—our goal is to convey the true meaning of Chanukah.

But we hope you can settle an argument for us. We’re looking for an ornament to top off our Chanukah bush. What would be more appropriate—a stone figurine of Moses carrying the Tablets (made from real Italian marble!), or a Lalique crystal Star of David?

— Chanukah Fanatics

Dear Fanatics:

Oh dear. This won’t do at all. You have turned Chanukah into an ecumenical event, adapting the practices of our non-Jewish neighbors while preserving the Jewish iconography of the holiday. Your observance brings together modern American customs and traditional Jewish practice to form a unique, inclusive celebration that reflects both the society in which we live and the ancient Tribe to which we belong.

Clearly, you don’t know the first thing about Chanukah.

Some history: Judah Maccabee killed a vast number of Hellenists, so naturally we wrote songs about him and invited our friends over for latkes and some intensely competitive dreidl. Look, it was 165 BCE: there weren’t a hell of a lot of reasons to party. So it’s hardly surprising that we would tacitly agree to overlook the slightly awkward fact that these Hellenists were actually fellow Jews.

What was it like to live in the early Hasmonean period? Well, as a twenty-first century analogy, let’s say you belong to a Reform synagogue. One day, without warning and right in the middle of the Katz bat mitzva, a horde of rampaging Conservatives from the shul around the corner (ironically named “Beth Shalom”) rush in and put your clergy and two-thirds of the building committee to the sword. Not only is your congregation suddenly without spiritual leadership, but the construction of your new social hall has to be indefinitely postponed.

The Conservatives are well-armed and committed to the cause. They’ve vowed not to stop the carnage until your temple has been “rededicated,” your heretical siddurim stripped of their godless gender-neutral language. Your fellow congregants see which way the wind is blowing. Do you resist, or maybe, just maybe, do you accept that only a Kohen should be given the first aliyah?

In fact, after a while, you choose to look on the whole affair as a good thing. Traditional Judaism triumphed! The Reform vastly outnumbered the Conservatives, but the latter were victorious due to the strength of their belief (and the ferocity of their firepower). Surely God was on their side. Let the singing and deep-frying commence!

So, Fanatics, whichever shrub topper you select, I hope you enjoy your hippie celebration of harmonious coexistence. While you still can.

— N. Troyer


N. Troyer recommends that you leave a copy of this publication under the Chanukah bush for each member of your family. And also that you think twice before accepting that position on the building committee.

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